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Full text of "The Understanding of Adult Ways"

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UNDERSTANDING ADULT WAYS 



THE UNDERSTANDING 
OF ADULT WAYS 



By 



WILFRED EVANS POWELL v \ % 

Professor of Religious Education 
Phillips University 



A textbook in the Standard Leadership Training Curriculum, 

outlined and approved by the International Council 

of Religious Education 






I . 



Printed for 
THE LEADERSHIP TRAINING PUBLISHING ASSOCIATION 

By 

THE BETHANY PRESS 
St. Louis, Mo. 



Copyright, 1941 
Wilfred Evans Powell 



Printed in the United States of America 



TO MY WIFE 
COMPANION OF THE ADULT YEARS 



T. 



EDITORS' INTRODUCTION 



HE CURRICULUM IS NINETY PER CENT TEACHER. ' ' If THIS 

statement is true, the development of a consecrated and 
skilled staff of leaders is the first responsibility of a teach- 
ing church. Too often better materials in the hands of un- 
trained leaders have produced disappointment and dis- 
couragement. The equipping of leaders for their teaching 
task must parallel or precede the introduction of improved 
types of curricula. The denominational boards of Chris- 
tian education are therefore laying great stress upon the 
development of a qualified leadership. 

The total program of leadership education carried for- 
ward by these denominations, severally and cooperatively, 
includes, in addition to a variety of un-standardized and 
informal programs and materials, the Standard Leadership 
Curriculum with its four levels or series of courses. Each 
series has its distinct purpose and field. The Second Series 
Courses, for which this text is prepared, ''are for persons 
who have a definite interest in leadership education and 
who are ready for somewhat more extensive work than is 
involved in the First Series Courses." Each course covers 
not less than ten fifty-minute periods. Each student, in 
order to receive a Second Certificate of Progress, must com- 
plete ten Second Series Courses, properly distributed, and 
also fulfill certain requirements as to religious growth, 
leadership experience, and educational activity. 

In making available for these Second Series Courses texts 
which are educationally sound and relatively inexpensive, 
the Leadership Training Publishing Association is render- 
ing a unique service. Through its various committees this 
cooperative Publishing Association selects writers, circu- 
lates outlines and manuscripts for careful criticism, and 
publishes those which meet the high requirements of the 
present-day leadership education program. The books al- 
ready published are evidence of the past success and 
present standing of the Association. 

This textbook, The Understanding of Adult Ways, is 
offered to support the new movement in adult Christian 
education. Once adulthood was considered a period in 



8 editors' introduction 

which growth had practically ceased. Adults were thought 
to be incapable of significant change. Now it is known 
that adults can and do change and that growth can con- 
tinue to the end of life. Even formal education is pursued 
by countless adults. 

Many studies of adult life in recent years have brought 
a deeper and better understanding of adulthood. New 
insights into the motives of adults have come. The frustra- 
tions and maladjustments of personality are beginning to 
be understood. The contribution religion may make to the 
development of personality is seen in a new light. This 
textbook takes into account the results of these studies. 

The author, Dr. Wilfred E. Powell, is well known 
through his books, especially The Growth of Christian Per- 
sonality. His wide study in this field and his experience 
as a teacher of Christian education in seminary and church 
qualify him for the writing of this textbook. Adult Chris- 
tian education should be set forward by this work of Dr. 
Powell. 

For the Leadership Training Publishing Association: 
Erwin L. Shaver, Chairman 
J. F. Armentrout, Chairman, Editorial-Educational 

Committee 
Glenn McRae, Chairman, Committee on Division IV 

Texts 



T. 



FOREWORD 



HE IMPROVEMENT OF ADULT LIFE DEPENDS NOT ONLY UPON 

increased religious devotion and improved methods and 
programs, but also upon a better understanding of human 
nature. A knowledge of the factors that make us what we 
are, with some insight into their ways of working, is 
essential both to the proper management of our own lives 
and to the maintenance of right relations with our fellows. 
This is especially required of all who are teachers or 
counselors of adults or who have administrative dealings 
with them. 

This book seeks to supply the need for a relatively simple 
guide to the understanding of adult ways. It was written 
at the invitation of the Leadership Training Publishing 
Association and is addressed particularly to those who 
work with adults in the church. It should be kept in mind, 
however, that the men and women in our churches can 
never be understood by considering only their religious 
practices or their church activities. The forces of their 
total world play upon them, and their inner attitudes color 
every phase of their personalities. The chapters that fol- 
low, therefore, consider adult life as a whole. 

Attention is called to certain physical features of the 
book. The material set off at the beginning of each chapter 
raises the problem with which the chapter deals. The 
reader may find it profitable — especially when the book is 
being used as a text— to formulate his own answer to the 
question before going on to the discussion which follows. 
At the end of each chapter, additional questions will be 
found which are intended both for individual stimulation 
and for use in group discussion. The Source Material con- 
tains excerpts from standard works in the field and thus 
supplements the text with material which otherwise might 
not be accessible to the reader. The more available books 
from which quotations are made are suitable references for 
further study, as are also the works listed in the Bibliog- 
raphy. 

Where the book is used as a leadership education text, 
the leader will note the Questions for Group Discussion 



10 FOREWORD 

and the items listed under Eeports and Investigations. 
These are intended to be suggestive only. Local groups 
may often find lines of discussion or of investigation more 
suited to their particular needs. It is important that there 
be full opportunity for reporting and evaluating actual 
observations of adult behavior. 

A work of this kind inevitably draws on a large number 
of sources. The author acknowledges his debt to many 
writers and observers of adult life whose experiences have 
been much wider than his own. Every effort has been 
made to give proper credit to them and to their publishers 
in footnotes and references throughout the book. Thanks 
are expressed, also, to educational leaders of many com- 
munions who read the manuscript and made valuable sug- 
gestions. 

W. E. P. 

Phillips University, 

Enid, Okla. 



CONTENTS 

CHAPTER PAGE 

I. The Adult in His World ______ 13 

Why are the adult years of crucial importance? 

II. The Marks of Adulthood ______ 31 

What are the characteristics of adult life? 

III. Differences in Adults _______ 49 

Why must we think in terms of the individual? 

IV. Adults in the Making _______ 67 

How do adults become what they are? 

V. The Motives of Adults _______ 85 

What motives keep adults going? 

VI. Conflict in Adult Life _______ 105 

Why are many adults unhappy? 

VII. The Mental Health of Adults _ _ _ _ 125 
How can the adult maintain a healthy mind? 

VIII. The Changing of Adult Ways _____ 143 
How can adult thought and conduct be 
changed? 

IX. The Enrichment of Adult Life _ _ _ _ 161 

What are the higher satisfactions of the adult 
years ? 

X. The Continuance of Adult Growth _ _ _ 179 
How may adidts keep on growing? 



11 



Everyone who reads these lines has at some time 
believed that "the world moves forward on the feet 
of its children." In the plastic nature of childhood 
and in the idealism of youth, men have thought they 
could see the hope both of the church and of society 
at large. By providing an adequate education for 
these groups, they have said, we shall speedily bring 
in the Kingdom of God. (§ Today we are not so 
sure. Questions are being raised. Why do we not 
see greater results from our improved methods with 
children? What basic changes toward a more 
Christian order have come about because of them? 
Can we really hope for the better day on the basis 
alone of what we may do for the child? <J Con- 
siderations of this sort have turned attention forcibly 
to another age-group — not to the exclusion of child- 
hood and youth, but as a necessary supplement to a 
proper concern for them. We have become aware 
of new significance in adult life, and Christian lead- 
ers are now saying that the whole program of the 
church will be vitiated if it fails with its adults. 
What are the reasons for this shift of thought? Why 
are the adult years of such crucial importance? 



CHAPTER ONE 

THE ADULT IN HIS WORLD 

Why Are the Adult Years of Crucial Importance? 

1 N SEEKING TO FORMULATE OUR ANSWERS TO THE QUESTION 

of this chapter we shall soon be led to face an arresting 
fact: as long as all is not well with adults, in society or 
church, no other group can long be healthy, nor can the 
future be bright. How can the child be well-adjusted if 
his teachers are not ? How can the character of the young 
be molded into a nobler form when the adult world so 
largely determines the pattern it shall take? While there 
are other reasons for the crucial importance of the adult 
years, none is more basic, so far as social progress is con- 
cerned, than the fact that ours is an adult-controlled world. 

AN ADULT-CONTROLLED WORLD 

Adults occupy the places of leadership in almost every 
sphere of life. They determine policies and decide courses 
of action. Although much is said in these days about the 
independence of modern youth, it is only here and there 
that young people exercise actual control over important 
processes. Adults manage our industries and our banks. 
They make our laws and our political platforms. They 
preserve our customs, good and bad, and set the fashions 
for our dress and our thought. They build our cities and 
our battleships, bring about our economic depressions, and 
pursue policies that plunge nations into the turmoil and 
horror of war. It is in this adult-controlled world that chil- 
dren and young people live. However sheltered they may 
be for a time in home or school, it is in the arena of our 
social, political, and economic life that many of the great 
issues of their characters are determined. 

13 



14 THE UNDERSTANDING OF ADULT WAYS 

Education, too, is in the control of adults. It is the 
adult who says what shall be taught in the school. The 
experiences there provided, the ideas emphasized, the atti- 
tudes and ideals encouraged, may be such as to drive the 
oncoming generation into the same tragic pitfalls that are 
the despair of our own, or they may be of a sort that will 
lead to the discovery of wiser methods of dealing with the 
problems of society and thus bring us to the dawn of the 
better day. The decision as to which kind of school we 
shall have is in the hands of adults. In the United States 
we have witnessed the efforts of some interests to keep out 
of the school any mention of unacceptable political and 
social systems and thus to restrict the curriculum in a 
way that would really make it impossible for the pupils 
to become intelligent in a world of social change. On the 
other hand, the vigorous opposition to this proposal on the 
part of those who are actually engaged in the task of edu- 
cation indicates a wholesome desire to keep the school free 
from the dominance of prejudice and special interests. 
Nevertheless, for good or ill, adults control the school. 
What we wish our children to become, we must, at least 
in spirit and attitude, first become ourselves. It is this fact 
that leads Joseph K. Hart to declare that it is not the edu- 
cation of children but the education of adults that can save 
the world. Social progress is possible, he maintains, to the 
extent that the adult generation can break with habit and 
dogmatism and become more open-minded, intelligent, and 
scientific in dealing with new situations. 

ADULTS IN THE CHURCH 

What is the place of adults in the church ? Is it as true 
of our churches as of society at large that the fashioning 
of policies and the control of major activities are almost 
altogether adult concerns? In some few instances young 
people may be given a determining voice in church affairs, 



THE ADULT IN HIS WORLD 15 

but in the main it is adults who approve budgets, select 
ministers, decide upon objectives, adopt programs, vote 
upon changes in policy, and in these and other ways de- 
termine the form that church life shall take. Who sit upon 
our church boards, local and denominational? Who erect 
our buildings and supply the means for maintaining them ? 
Who constitute the members and leaders of our missionary 
societies and our women's councils or make up the bulk of 
our congregations at the morning or the evening worship ? 
The church is predominantly an adult institution. Yet, 
strangely enough, its educational program, in most cases, 
provides with some adequacy for childhood and youth but 
makes very meager provision for adults. This failure we 
are just now beginning to correct. 

In its educational work the church sometimes modifies 
adult control, giving to young people a measure of self- 
determination and allowing, even to children, not a little 
freedom in pursuing self -chosen ends. But all of this is, 
of course, within the limits set by adult oversight. Adults 
supervise what is done and guide the young in the selection 
of their purposes and of the means of attaining them. 
Even if this direct guidance were removed, it would still be 
true that young people would gain the stimulus and in- 
spiration for most of their thought and action from their 
adult leadership. Writing of a conference of church youth, 
at which the floor and the discussions were reserved for the 
young people themselves and the older generation were per- 
mitted to look on from the gallery, Professor Coe has 
pointed out that, after all, the young people acted under 
the influence of books and teachings emanating from adults 
and that, despite the radical utterances of some of the 
young people, the real radicals were in the gallery. 

In calling attention to the dominant place of adults in 
the church, in education, and in life, we have not meant 
to suggest that the situation should, or could, be otherwise. 



16 THE UNDERSTANDING OP ADULT WAYS 

Both the church and society might well give to young peo- 
ple a larger voice in their affairs, but it is inevitable that 
the texture and fabric, the warp and woof, of our social 
life should, for the most part, be wrought out by those who 
have reached the adult years. And because this is true, 
the Christian education of children depends for its effec- 
tiveness upon our being able to do more with adults. The 
setting for all of life is a world made by adults. Unless 
the adult years can be filled with zestful living, unless the 
adult mind can become eagerly receptive to new truth, un- 
less adult attitudes can be broad in sympathy and socially 
progressive, we cannot expect, through the process of edu- 
cation, to develop these traits in the young, nor can we 
hope to go very far in the Christian reconstruction of so- 
ciety. The Kingdom of God, as the Jerusalem Missionary 
Council declared, awaits the completion of our own (adult) 
conversion. 

A WORLD OF RAPID CHANGE 

Another reason, however, for the crucial importance of 
the adult years is the fact that the world in which adults 
live is rapidly changing and that traditional education 
does not properly equip for life in this changing civiliza- 
tion. Not only does the scenery on the stage of life change 
with kaleidoscopic suddenness, but also we find ourselves 
playing new parts, with changed properties and different 
actors, with new lines to learn and new situations to meet. 
Even the most alert actors find it difficult to follow the 
progress of the plot, and many find themselves to be mysti- 
fied onlookers instead of eager participants. 

Yesterday industry moved out of the home and went 
to the factory, and the members of the family lost most of 
the valuable educative experience of intimate fellowship 
in creative tasks. The factory was equipped with machines 
that could do the work of many men and the operation of 



THE ADULT IN HIS WORLD 17 

which required a minimum of skill. What had been for 
the artisan a creative process tended to become for the 
worker a monotonous bit of routine. Great industrial in- 
stitutions were developed and became impersonal and often 
morally irresponsible. Terms and conditions of work were 
discussed by those concerned, not face to face, but through 
representatives of powerful groups of capital and labor. 
Production was enormously increased, and the desire to 
expand became an obsession. In the course of time there 
was built up a vast and impressive industrial civilization. 
But because we were more concerned about the growth of 
production than the development of personality, because 
we applied our inventive genius so much more vigorously 
to mechanical problems than to the problems of human 
relationships, the very foundations of our civilization were 
rocked by a devastating world war and then were shaken 
again by a crushing economic depression. These two up- 
heavals occurred during the lifetime of even the younger 
adults of today, and now the same men and women look 
out upon a world which seems bent on self-destruction. 
Can any adult be found who has not had to make some 
major readjustment of life because of his changing world? 

POLITICAL CHANGE 

The political scene shifts even more rapidly than other 
phases of life. In two decades we saw great European 
monarchies fall, experiments in democracy fail, new forms 
of dictatorship arise, and the map of Europe change so 
completely that the geography which adults had learned in 
school was of no use as a guide to it. More recently, the 
shifts have been so frequent and so sudden that a radio 
flash may at any time bring news for which the best in- 
formed person is quite unprepared. Moreover, in our own 
land, beneath the superficiality of partisan conflict, it is not 



18 THE UNDERSTANDING OF ADULT WAYS 

difficult for anyone to see that political changes of far- 
reaching significance are in process. 

That changes have also been taking place in our methods 
of thinking is, perhaps, not so obvious. Such changes are 
slower and less spectacular than the overt acts of political 
or social revolution; but they are real, nevertheless. For 
some three hundred years men have been persistently mov- 
ing toward the more general use of a procedure that ob- 
serves and measures, that weighs and tests, that experi- 
ments, secures data, and then forms its conclusions. This 
we call scientific thinking. 

Much of our material progress and medical advance can 
be traced to the use of this method of attacking problems. 
It has not been infallible, because it has been used by im- 
perfect men and women, but it has opened vast realms 
of knowledge and has greatly increased our powers. It 
stands in sharp opposition to superstition, fear, and 
prejudice, and to any procedure which, ignoring relevant 
facts, relies merely upon emotion and dogma. Though 
the great majority of adults have as yet scarcely begun to 
use the scientific method, some of its results seep through 
into our thinking on all subjects, and practically every 
person is, in some degree, influenced by it. 

CHANGES IN RELIGIOUS THOUGHT 

Religion, too, is undergoing change. What thoughtful 
adult is there who cannot trace some modification of his 
own religious thought or practice over a period of, say, the 
past ten years? While there are doubtless many excep- 
tions, it can surely be said of religious life in America that, 
in recent decades, it has become less authoritarian and 
more experimental. At the heart of the Christian religion 
there is, of course, the good news of the love of God, and 
this the church must ever proclaim positively. But modern 
Christianity, approaching more nearly the attitude of Jesus 



THE ADULT IN HIS WORLD 19 

and the New Testament than did the traditional church, 
calls for the testing of the gospel in experience. Its em- 
phasis may be suggested by the phrase, "Try, and see." 
The message of the church is to be tested in thought and 
life, in individual experience and in social functioning. 

It is this spirit that has made it impossible for vital 
Christianity today to resist the urge to attempt to apply 
its principles to the reconstruction of society. Though this 
purpose has always been, in some sense, inherent in Chris- 
tianity, we now see more clearly how necessary it is and 
how great are some of the changes it requires. Church 
groups in large numbers have gone on record as approving 
action toward this end. Yet there are many Christians 
who do not feel at home where the social implications of 
Christianity are being considered, and it is possible for a 
recent writer, while discussing the renewal of interest in 
religion, to say that the effort to Christianize the social 
order seems to him to be diametrically opposed to the teach- 
ings of Jesus. 1 Thus in the field of religion, also, changes 
are taking place which to some adults are disturbing and to 
others constitute an inspiring challenge. 

What kind of education is needed in this changing 
world? Clearly, the education of the young must be flex- 
ible rather than rigidly prescribed. It should endeavor 
to give the learner, not merely fixed ideas and narrow 
skills, but primarily attitudes and understanding that will 
enable him to be intelligent and ethical in facing new 
situations. The wisest curriculum-maker cannot foresee 
the future — even the immediate future — clearly enough to 
know exactly what ideas and skills will be required to live 
a satisfying and efficient life in it. If the education of the 
young cannot prepare for life in a changing world — what 
then? A way must be found for education to continue 

a Henry C. Link, The Return to Religion, p. 139. 



20 THE UNDERSTANDING OF ADULT WAYS 

throughout the adult years, so that men and women may 
not be baffled by the problems that confront them, but may 
deal with them when they arise as wisely as possible. 

REACTIONS TO CHANGE 

In some of the mining areas of this country there are 
groups of laborers, largely of foreign birth, who are 
equipped by muscle and brain, by previous experience, 
habit, and outlook, to mine coal. The mines have been 
closed, and some of them, at least, will never again open; 
but the miners have been so impoverished by their pre- 
vious mode of life that they cannot adjust themselves to 
the changed conditions. They wait, often amid the most 
squalid surroundings and the direst poverty, for the mines 
to open. "We mention this situation to point out that many 
adults, whose opportunities in life have been much greater 
than those of the miners, respond to the changes in our 
civilization in much this same stolid way. The channels of 
their thought have become so fixed that they cannot re- 
direct them in the face of altered conditions. They, there- 
fore, make themselves unhappy, become intransigent, or 
fearful, or cynical, or perhaps break down under the 
strain; and, if they are in positions of power, bring no end 
of trouble and suffering upon others. 

Men will, for example, persist blindly in courses of action 
which may at one time have been fairly effective but which, 
in the changed situations of the present, have become quite 
inadequate. More than a decade ago an eminent economist 
pointed out that the business philosophy of self-interest 
which, under the simpler conditions of the nineteenth cen- 
tury was fairly safe and even socially advantageous, had 
become, in the twentieth century, unsafe and generally dis- 
astrous. 2 Some leaders of industry have, of course, recog- 
nized this fact and have endeavored to build a higher phi- 

2 Hadley, Economic Problems of Democracy, 1923, p. 135. 



THE ADULT IN HIS WORLD 21 

losophy of business along more cooperative lines, but the 
determination of others to drive on in the old way was a 
contributing factor in the distressing economic conditions 
of the recent past. 

It is equally unsatisfactory when men react to the 
changes in our modern world by an attitude of pessimism 
and despair. Yet all too many adults fall into this mood. 
Measuring all of life by patterns which their own past has 
made familiar, they become cynical toward everything that 
does not conform to them. The ways of the oncoming gen- 
eration are apt to be particular objects of their scorn, and 
while their criticisms may sometimes have a measure of 
validity, they are almost always grossly exaggerated. A 
man of high principles and of nearly seventy su mm ers, 
who had lived a strenuous but narrow life with strict at- 
tention to business, recently observed that someone ought 
to write a book on the absolute irresponsibility of modern 
youth. And a Christian leader who had spent his life in 
educational and religious work declared to the writer, "I 
have completely lost faith in democracy. The condition 
of the world and of our own nation today demonstrate 
that it is unworkable." 

The adult years are of crucial importance, then, because 
within their limits many of the most serious problems of 
readjustment have to be faced. Children and young 
people may adapt themselves to the changing world with 
a minimum of difficulty, but men and women who have 
allowed their thinking to crystallize into unvarying forms, 
may suffer greatly from their lack of adaptation. To pre- 
vent such unfortunate outcomes is one of the chief func- 
tions of adult education. 

AN UN-CHRISTIAN WORLD 

But it is not simply because our world is in charge of 
adults and is rapidly changing that the adult years compel 



22 THE UNDERSTANDING OF ADULT WAYS 

our attention. It is also because our world, in many phases 
of its corporate life, is an un-Christian world — a world 
which, for large numbers of people, destroys the finer ele- 
ments of character and personality. 

The artist, Irwin D. Hoffman, has painted a picture en- 
titled, "Rubbish." It shows a dejected and utterly for- 
lorn figure of what once was a man who stood upright, 
crouched on an orange box beside two ash cans, his only 
companion a half-starved cat. Dimly, in the background, 
one can discern the skyscrapers of the city, symbols of 
wealth, power, inventiveness, and organizing skill. Com- 
menting upon the picture, Albert Bailey says : ' ' Yesterday 
he stood up in his boots and said, 'It is not my fault! 
I have never had a chance. ' But, today, the fight has gone 
out of him. It will never come back. . . . Must we confess 
that we can handle all the engineering and financial and 
mechanical problems involved in building a great metrop- 
olis, and yet cannot handle the human problem of finding 
a home and a job for a boy?" 3 

The disturbing truth of this picture is not limited to the 
particular situation portrayed by the artist. The picture 
is symbolic of what is happening in almost every realm of 
modern civilization. Everywhere we seem to be better 
able to perfect mechanical skills and to produce more and 
superior "things" than we are to control what we make, 
for the good of "persons." Hence the world of today pre- 
sents a distressing spectacle. In the midst of great abun- 
dance, there is even greater want. With our vast indus- 
trial organization, hosts of men and women have been 
driven by the economic struggle toward despair. "With 
our fields laden with grain, thousands of American farm- 
ers have been reduced to mere subsistence or less. While 
our engineers bring their work to ever higher levels of 

8 In "Teaching with Pictures," Front Bank, Vol. XLL No. 14, p. 9. 
Reprinted by courtesy of Classmate. 



THE ADULT IN HIS WORLD 23 

excellence, some of the finest products of their skill are 
used to spread suffering, destruction, and death. Though 
inventive genius has brought the nations of the world into 
close contact, confidence among them is gone, and violence 
and power-politics hold sway. Our economic and social 
life, our racial relations, our political activities, and our 
international affairs are marked by widespread and con- 
stant conflict with the Christian ideal. 

WHAT HAPPENS TO PERSONALITY ? 

In a world like this, what happens to personality ? What 
kind of people are being developed through participation 
in the life of today? Let us be clear that in all of these 
activities we are making men of one sort or another and 
that in the Christian view nothing is more important than 
the kind of men we make. What, then, are the effects upon 
persons of the un-Christian conditions we have sketched? 

Some men and women, like the character in the picture, 
are simply crushed by them. They seek for a time to main- 
tain themselves as persons and then, when conditions 
prove too difficult, give up the struggle. Even the special 
measures to relieve human need, which the nation has been 
forced to adopt in recent years, have not always prevented 
this social catastrophe. While everyone must admit that 
some of these measures have helped to build men and 
women, one cannot but wonder what the experience of 
being on relief has done to the spirits of millions of our 
American citizens. Individual cases of men and women 
in whom the divine spark seems to have been smothered 
are not hard to find. 

Other adults are hardened by these conditions and drift 
toward a materialistic philosophy and a cynical attitude. 
This is apt to be particularly true of some areas of life, 
though it may easily spread to one's total outlook. An 
employer, let us say, who is a nominal Christian, and who 



24 THE UNDERSTANDING OF ADULT WAYS 

in his private life is not without normal generous impulses, 
feels himself driven by keen competition and the force of 
dividend-demands to use unscrupulous methods in his busi- 
ness. His sharp practices seem to him to be justifiable be- 
cause they are required by the system, and thus he soon 
becomes hardened and accepts the situation as normal and 
necessary. A group of young adults in the church, who 
earnestly desire to be good parents of their own children, 
have no compunctions about opposing the policy of feed- 
ing the children of stricken European nations. One can 
readily understand the forces playing upon the lives of 
these adults, but that does not prevent their destructive 
influence upon character nor lessen the harm done to oth- 
ers by the attitudes taken. 

Perhaps the great majority of adults are perplexed and 
baffled by life in the modern world, and many, while seek- 
ing to adjust themselves to its demands, are influenced in 
ways that constitute a serious threat to Christianity. 
Among our present generation of Christians, who has not 
experienced some sense of disillusionment? What has 
happened to our belief in the possibility of a saloonless 
nation, of the evangelization of the world in this genera- 
tion, or of a world made safe for democracy? Which of 
us cannot detect in his own soul the influence of current 
materialistic standards of success? Have we sought to 
escape from the problems of the world by finding satisfac- 
tion in a purely emotional and other-worldly type of re- 
ligion? Or have we allowed ourselves to succumb to the 
secular spirit of our age ? There is much in the atmosphere 
of today that tends to stifle spirituality, and the adults in 
our churches are not immune to these influences. Yet be- 
cause they may fail to recognize them or to understand 
their negative effects upon true Christian faith, adults 
may offer no real resistance to their destructive spread. 



THE ADULT IN HIS WORLD 25 

Is it any wonder that church work is often difficult and 
that leaders have to make greater effort than formerly to 
obtain the same response? 

A CHALLENGE TO ADULT POWERS 

But the conditions of the world today do not merely 
present a problem to the adult mind; they also constitute 
a challenge to adult powers. Adults made the world what 
it is, and if it is to be changed they will have to set them- 
selves to the task of changing it. And since society tends 
to make men in its own image, it is imperative that effort 
be made to Christianize the whole of life. How far can 
the church go in developing Christian personality as long 
as men and women live in a world where powerful forces 
drive them toward altogether different goals? How can 
the church rest satisfied until it brings these wider aspects 
of life more nearly under the dominance of Christian 
ideals? That Christians may become more zealous in the 
effort to bring this about — and more efficient in the activi- 
ties necessary to accomplish it — is one of the inspiring pos- 
sibilities of adult education in the church. 

To meet the challenge of present conditions, by main- 
taining a vigorous Christian life in spite of them and at the 
same time seeking to build a more Christian world, de- 
mands the utmost of the adult generation. Yet the fact 
is that, in this adult-controlled world, in which there is so 
great a need for the alert mind and the socially sensitive 
soul, most men and women are living up to only a very 
small part of their possibilities. They have been led to 
believe that education is for childhood and youth and that 
the adult years must mean merely settling down to use 
whatever education it has been their privilege to gain. 
They have been too generally in the grip of the pessimism 
which sees ' ' shades of the prison house begin to close upon 
the growing boy" and thinks that when adulthood is 



26 THE UNDERSTANDING OP ADULT WAYS 

reached all visions "fade into the light of common day." 
They have even allowed religion to become too largely a 
tradition to be maintained instead of a resource to be 
used. The result is that, in most cases, adults make only 
a fractional use of their powers. 

A proper view of adulthood will do much to change this 
attitude of mind. It will open unrealized possibilities of 
personal growth and social achievement. It will show that 
education may be continuous, that all visions need not 
fade, that minds may be kept alert, that adult powers, re- 
inforced by Christian faith, may meet the challenge of the 
modern world. The path to these goals will sometimes be 
rough and steep, but the fact that the way is open to them, 
and that men and women may undertake the journey with 
hopefulness, constitutes a final reason for the importance 
of the adult years. 

SOURCE MATERIAL 

1. Adult control of childhood. — "The child is born into a group; 
and before he has time or the chance to develop independence of 
being, or individual personality, he is absorbed into the pre-existent 
life of his group — his various groups: he is caught in the inter- 
minable tangle of folkways and mores — his 'mind' is assimilated 
to the mind of the group; his habits are repbcas of the customs of 
the group; his emotions are the emotions of the group; his language 
is the language of the group; his acts are the acts of the group; 
his behavior is the behavior of the group." (Joseph K. Hart, Adult 
Education, p. 231. Used by permission of the author.) 

"So the problem of education again turns back upon the adult. 
We must learn how to educate adults before we can get very much 
further with the education of children." (Ibid, p. 117.) 

2. Our un-Christicm world. — W. C. Barclay has reviewed some of 
the anti-social, hence un-Christian, conditions of our life today un- 
der the following heads: A. General: (1) Waste of natural re- 
sources; (2) Economic waste; (3) Concentration of wealth and 
power; (4) Insecurity; (5) Graft and corruption; (6) Industrial 
warfare; (7) War and international relations. B. Specific: (1) 
Deficient medical care; (2) Malnutrition and underfeeding; (3) 
Housing and loss of homes; (4) Disproportionate return to capi- 
tal; (5) Unemployment and relief. After giving many facts which 



THE ADULT IN HIS WORLD 27 

reveal a distressing situation, Dr. Barclay admits that his survey 
is incomplete and deliberately one-sided, but continues: "It is not 
one-sided in the sense that any number of other facts would in any 
degree mitigate or take away from the rigor, the stern seriousness, 
and the moral and spiritual significance of the facts presented. 
Moral wrong, social injustice, unnecessary human suffering contin- 
uously through the ages offer challenge to religion. Always they 
have done so, and doubtless they always will do so. But there 
come times when conditions so shape themselves that the challenge 
cannot be ignored. Such a time has now come." (Wade Craw- 
ford Barclay, Christian Education for Times Like These, pp. 9-22, 29. 
Used by permission of Abingdon-Cokesbury Press, publishers.) 

3. Effects upon persons. — " (1) Persons are of supreme worth. 
In that faith and conviction Jesus taught and lived and died. Chris- 
tianity, in order to be true to him, must maintain and develop the 
implications of this central emphasis. The full import of this basic 
emphasis must be repeatedly explored in a changing environment. 
The challenge of Jesus' spirit and faith still holds for us the 
obligation to discover as fully as we can the application of this 
primary principle to the changed conditions of our day. 

" {2) Christian social action is a necessary element in the process 
of Christian evangelism. When we seek to discover and understand 
the things which retard and thwart the richest possible experience 
of life for individuals, it is clearly evident that socially determined 
environmental conditions play a very important part. This fact 
places upon Christians an obligation (a) to undertake such con- 
structive and creative social change as will remove these hindrances; 
(b) to bring about the most favorable social matrix possible for the 
release and cultivation of the latent God-implanted possibilities of 
individual life experience." (First two "principles for guidance in 
Christian social action," Report of the Lalce Geneva Conference, 
p. 39. United Christian Adult Movement, 1937. Copyright, Interna- 
tional Council of Religious Education. Used by permission.) 

QUESTIONS FOR THE READER 

1. Did you answer the question raised at the beginning of this 
chapter before reading the author's discussion? Did your reading 
cause you to modify your thinking in any degree? Why? Why not? 

2. Read Source Material 1. Do you agree with this quotation? 
Is there any overstatement in it? Give some specific instances of 
the way in which adult example and attitude make it difficult or 
impossible for education to bring about progressive and Christian 
changes in the young. 

3. Do you think that our high school young people should under- 
stand the meaning of the following terms and be familiar with the 



28 THE UNDERSTANDING OP ADULT WAYS 

aims and methods for which, they stand? Fascism, democracy, so- 
cialism, communism. Why? Why not? 

4. Consider your own church. To what extent is the author's 
statement that "the church is "predominantly an adult institution" 
true? Wherein do you think the statement possibly inaccurate? 

5. What changes have taken place in your own religious thought 
in the last ten years? 

6. How do you decide upon a course of action when faced with 
a new situation? Can you fairly say that your decisions are reached 
by a process of "scientific thinking"? 

7. Are you among those men and women who "are living up to 
only a very small part of their possibilities"? Are there things you 
have hoped to do which you have been kept from attempting for 
no very good reason? Will you, with an open mind, consider the 
possibility of your reaching some of these higher levels of living? 

QUESTIONS FOE GROUP DISCUSSION 

1. Questions 2, 3, and 4 above are suitable for group discussion. 
Consider also the questions raised in the text on page 24. 

2. Do any of the conditions listed under Source Material 2 exist 
in your community? Describe some specific case showing unwhole- 
some effects upon personality. 

EEPOETS AND INVESTIGATIONS 

1. Eeport on some of the cases of anti-social conditions described 
in the pamphlet, Christian Education for Times Like These, by 
Barclay; or if Margaret Slattery's little book, He Toole It Upon 
Himself, is available, report on the case of Peter Clay, pp. 44-46. 
Does society share responsibility for such a tragedy? 

2. Ask a number of adults what they think of some of the fol- 
lowing subjects : Pacifism, Modern Young People, Democracy, Funda- 
mentalism, Socialism, The New Deal, Modernism, A More Christian 
Social Order. How far do the answers seem to be based on reflec- 
tive thinking? How far on habit, prejudice, and dogmatism? 



Which year marks the beginning of adulthood? 
What are the characteristics of this period of life? 
How may we distinguish life at this level from that 
of childhood and youth? tfl An adult, the dictionary 
tells us, is one who is fully grown, one who has 
reached the state of complete maturity. We enter 
upon the adult years, we are informed by the law, 
when we reach our twenty-first birthday — although 
there are many exceptions to this rule in legal pro- 
nouncement. Again, if we have in mind the standard 
for the organization of the church school, we become 
adults at the age of twenty-four. The chief char- 
acteristics of adult life, our offhand thinking sug- 
gests, are the cessation of physical growth, the ac- 
quiring of a sense of responsibility, the use of knowl- 
edge and power gained in earlier years, and the 
settling of life into a definite routine with fixity and 
finality in habits, opinions, and attitudes. ^ It would 
be strange indeed if these commonly accepted views 
were wholly false. There is, we must admit, a 
measure of truth in them. They contain so large 
an admixture of error, however — or at least of false 
emphasis — that they may easily turn us into paths 
which lead steadily to spiritual death. They will not 
suffice for the thinking of those who desire to gain 
true insight into their own lives or of those who 
desire to reach the kind of understanding of others 
that will be most helpful in working with adults in 
the church. We need, therefore, to find more precise 
answers to these questions. C| In our search, it may 
help us to trace briefly the pilgrimage of the adult 
through his world, noting some of the effects of the 
passing years and of the experiences that come to 
him along the way. 



w. 



CHAPTER TWO 

THE MAKKS OF ADULTHOOD 

What Are the Characteristics of Adult Life? 



HEN DOES ONE BECOME AN ADULT? THE QUESTION IS 

difficult because the borderline between the kingdom of 
youth and the realm of manhood has never been very 
clearly drawn and there have been a good many boundary 
disputes. The word "adult" has itself increased rather 
than lessened the confusion, for it means, by derivation, 
one who has finished growing. It is derived from the plu- 
perfect tense of the Latin word, adolesco, "to grow up," 
and therefore emphatically declares that, while the adoles- 
cent is growing, the adult has reached the end of growth. 
He has come to a certain fixed status. He has entered a 
land inhabited by men and women who are fully mature, 
whose development is complete, who can add nothing more 
that is essential to themselves as persons. How distress- 
ingly this suggests that on the boundary there is a sign 
which reads: Ne plus ultra — "Nothing beyond"! 

But there is only one side of life in which the cessation 
of growth is even approximately valid as a mark of the 
attainment of adulthood, and that is one which probably 
concerns us least when we have in mind the church and 
its educational work. Somewhere toward the middle of 
the third decade of life for the average man, and a few 
years earlier for the average woman, the physical body may 
be said to attain its full growth. Progressive changes 
may still take place, but the basic structure of the body 
is determined. When the skeleton has finished growing, 
it is about as fixed as anything in the make-up of the in- 

31 



32 THE UNDERSTANDING OP ADULT WAYS 

dividual, and the resultant physical appearance is always 
an important factor in his total personality. The time of 
its taking form, however, is of little educational significance 
as an indication that adulthood has been reached. 

MENTAL MATURITY 

If physical maturity is of slight value in determining 
when the youth becomes an adult, can we say that the 
transition is marked by the attainment of mental maturity ? 
If so, what should maturity in this realm be understood 
to mean ? 

For the purposes of adult education, mental maturity 
might conceivably be regarded as the sign of adulthood 
if there were some simple and practical way of measuring 
it. But no very usable measuring stick is available, and 
the different phases of mental growth seem to proceed at 
different rates and thus to reach "maturity" at different 
times. Let us consider intelligence as measured by the 
standard tests. It used to be assumed that these tests 
measured our stock of native intelligence, which could not 
be added to by education, but which developed, much as 
the body grows, until it reached its high point somewhere 
near the sixteenth year. It is now recognized that these 
tests measure only some kinds of intelligence and that it 
is not possible to eliminate the influence of schooling and 
other educative factors. Moreover, some recent studies 
seem to indicate an increase of intelligence, even as meas- 
ured by these tests, up to the twenty-first or twenty-second 
year. 1 If we had some way of measuring practical types 
of intelligence such as alertness in dealing with social sit- 
uations, or if our educational system did more to stimulate 
and encourage the mental growth of adults, no doubt the 



J See Adult Learning, by Edward L. Thorndike, pp. 157-159. 



THE MARKS OF ADULTHOOD 33 

high point of intelligence development would be pushed 
well into the adult years. Even under present conditions 
this has already taken place in the case of many individ- 
uals. 

A slightly different aspect of our mental life is the ability 
to learn. This is a matter of fundamental concern to the 
church and to all educational institutions, and yet it has 
been rather commonly held that with the coming of adult- 
hood the ability to learn practically came to an end. Al- 
though this view casts a shadow upon life, it has seemed 
to rest upon much of our common experience and also 
upon good authority. Did not William James — a name to 
conjure with — say that a man could not learn anything 
new, outside his business at least, after he reached twenty- 
five? 2 And has not our everyday experience given us the 
household philosophy that you cannot teach an old dog 
new tricks? Must we say, then, that the transition from 
youth to manhood is marked by the loss of the power to 
learn ? 

The well-known experiments of Professor Thorndike an- 
swer in an emphatic negative. They have shown conclu- 
sively that loss of the power to learn is not a mark of ma- 
turity but a sign of senility. Learning may continue 
throughout the adult years. Naturally there is some de- 
cline in this ability with advancing age, but the decline is 
gradual, and the amount is relatively small. Professor 
Thorndike places the high point of learning-power, on the 
average, somewhere between the years twenty and twenty- 
five. Instead of being marked by the loss of learning- 
power, the entrance upon adulthood might thus more cor- 
rectly be said to coincide with the attainment of the acme 
of ability to learn. 

Principles of Psychology, Vol. II, p. 402. 



34 THE UNDERSTANDING OP ADULT WAYS 

EMOTIONAL CONTROL 

Still another phase of mental life is sometimes said to 
provide us with a good test of maturity — emotional con- 
trol. When one has reached the place where he has prac- 
tical and intelligent control of his emotions, so that his 
feelings do not warp his judgment and dominate his will, 
he may be regarded as being emotionally mature. This 
quality of life should characterize adults. It is neverthe- 
less clear that some people have better emotional control 
at eighteen than others at twenty-eight — or even at fifty. 
No definite standard as to what constitutes full growth in 
this realm can be formulated. 

Emotional maturity certainly must not be taken to mean 
the dull impassivity which is seen in many adults, and it 
should be understood that, for some men and women, "a 
year in the fifties or sixties is worth in intrinsic feeling 
value far more than a year of youth." 3 It is easy to see, 
however, that the person who lacks emotional control has 
not attained true adulthood. The married woman who re- 
sorts to screams, tears, and kicking to get her way is still 
having infantile tantrums, although she may have passed 
her thirtieth birthday. The man who can meet a difficult 
situation only with a stream of blasphemy is emotionally 
immature, despite his pride in his manly physique. Abil- 
ity to control emotion must be considered an important 
sign of true maturity. 

Can we say, then, that mental maturity is an indication 
that the youth has become a man? Possibly, if we knew 
more about it. But whether it is or not, of this we can 
be sure : maturity in the mental realm must not be taken 
to mean the end of growth. There should still be gains 
in skill and control, in accuracy, judgment, and evaluation. 

3 W. H. Sheldon, Psychology and the Promethean Will, P- 4. Harper 
& Bros., publishers, New York. 



THE MARKS OF ADULTHOOD 35 

There need be no serious impairment of the mental powers 
for many years to come. The capacity for new adaptations 
need not be lost; and, most important of all, the depth 
and range of the mind may continue to increase indefi- 
nitely. 4 The whole world, with its inspiring possibilities 
and its challenging problems, is open to it. ' ' The intellect 
grows most ready for adventure," says Dr. Hart, "just 
when the body has attained its full growth." 5 

ECONOMIC RESPONSIBILITY 

The difficulties involved in marking the entrance of 
adult life by means of inner growth of body or of mind, 
together with the fact that the individual is always in- 
timately related to his world, have led many writers to 
find the distinguishing marks of adulthood in the realm 
of social experience. Perhaps it is when one begins work 
in his chosen vocation that one, in the most significant 
sense, enters upon adult life. Or is it when a man becomes 
economically independent, or when a girl gets married? 
"By 'youth,' " writes one psychologist, "I mean the pe- 
riod of life that begins when the boy or the girl leaves 
school [primary and secondary school is meant] and ends 
with matrimony or the acceptance of life without a mate." 6 
Maturity, another defines as ' ' the long stretch of economic, 
political and domestic responsibility," the approach to 
which is ' ' signaled by the purchase of a workman 's dinner 
pail; the beginning of regular hours of toil under a boss; 
or by the entrance upon the life of college. " 7 " The only 
distinguishing characteristics of adults," says a third 
writer, "are their longer experience, the difference in kind 

4 See The Psychology of Adolescence, by Frederick Tracy, pp. 19 ff. 

"Joseph K. Hart, Adult Education, p. 310. Used by permission of 
the author. 

8 J. R. Oliver, The Ordinary Difficulties of Everyday People, p. 113. 
Alfred A. Knopf, publisher, New York. 

7 H. L. Hollingworth, Mental Growth and Decline, pp. 46, 48. D. Ap- 
pleton-Century Co., New York. 



36 THE UNDERSTANDING OP ADULT WAYS 

of the new experiences which they are likely to meet, and 
the relatively greater import of the problems which have 
a claim upon them." 8 

This is the most practical, and on the whole the most 
valid, way of marking the transition from youth to adult- 
hood. When a youth secures a permanent job and earns 
enough to make himself economically independent — or 
when he marries, establishes a new home, and wrestles with 
the problems involved in maintaining it — he has, in a truly 
significant sense, become a man. When a young woman, 
competent in some chosen work, accepts an offer of mar- 
riage — or refuses it to stay at her work, or becomes recon- 
ciled to life without a mate — she has passed over into the 
period of adulthood. 

It must be recognized that lines between any stages of 
human development can never be rigidly drawn and that 
we must always leave room in our thinking for great in- 
dividual variations. A man may be forced to accept a 
job, or be driven by passion into matrimony, or become 
economically independent by a relative's bequest, while he 
is still inwardly quite unprepared to shoulder these re- 
sponsibilities. There are men and women who meet the 
situations of their domestic life with the immaturity and 
irresponsibility that a child might be expected to show if 
faced with these adult problems. But as long as we must 
think in general terms, these outward signs of transition 
from a sheltered and dependent life to the relatively un- 
guided management of one 's own affairs are the best marks 
we have of the attainment of adulthood. "I have an in- 
dictment to make against the college," a young husband 
said to the writer. "It did not make clear to me what I 
should be up against when I entered the business world 
to make a living for myself and my wife." He did not 

S R. Kotinsky, Adult Education and the Social Scene, p. 23. D. Ap- 
pleton-Century Co. 



THE MARKS OP ADULTHOOD 37 

know that had the college tried to do this, as perhaps 
it did, he would not have understood. In the meantime, 
he had become an adult. 

YOUNG ADULTS AND THE CHURCH 

The time when youth changes into adulthood is a matter 
of no small concern to the church, especially in its educa- 
tional work. It has an obvious bearing upon the practical 
problem of organization and it calls attention to the great 
opportunity open to the church if it will seriously under- 
take to meet the needs of the younger adults. 

For many years the formal standard for departmental 
organization has stated that the twenty-three-year-old be- 
longs in the young people's group, while the person who 
has passed his twenty-fourth birthday should be placed 
among the adults. But this age line is quite arbitrary and 
in many cases, perhaps even in the majority of cases, does 
not mark a significant change in the life of the individ- 
ual. Outside of the college group, most of the constituency 
of the church face the realities of economic struggle sev- 
eral years earlier, while the average age of marriage in 
the United States is 21.7 years for women and 24.8 years 
for men. 9 Instead of using any particular age as the 
dividing line between young people and adults, it is now 
proposed that the church be guided by considerations of 
economic, domestic, and perhaps political status. Such ex- 
periences as leaving school, becoming self-supporting, get- 
ting married, permanently leaving the parental home, and 
taking part in political affairs indicate the need of a dif- 
ferent type of church program for those who share in them. 
' ' A person who has passed two or more of these milestones 
has traveled most of the venturous and sometimes difficult 
way from youth to adulthood." 10 

8 ?7. 8. Census, 1930, reported in the New York Times, Oct. 15, 1935. 
"Bulletin, Young Adults in the Church, p. 8. Copyright, Interna- 
tional Council of Religious Education. Used by permission. 



38 THE UNDERSTANDING OP ADULT WAYS 

The kind of social experience which we have seen to be 
the most useful indication that adulthood has been reached 
also points to the critical character of this period of life 
for religious growth and to the strategic opportunity of 
the church in dealing with it. There can be no doubt that 
for large numbers of those who make the transition to adult 
life the years that immediately follow are critical years. 
The cold blasts of what seems to be the ' ' real ' ' world chill 
their spiritual ardor; youthful idealism bends and then 
breaks before the relentless pressures of practical life; and 
all too soon the dreams of youth are smothered under the 
icy covering of disillusionment. How many times we have 
seen repeated the case of the young man, reported by Mrs. 
Charters in her story of an experiment in adult education ! 
Throughout his youth he was consistent and enthusiastic 
in his church life. "Then he got a job, and married, and 
now he and his wife never come inside the church." It 
may very well be, as Mrs. Charters suggests, that this 
plunging into the problems of the adult world is the most 
complete and sudden crisis in life and that if the church 
can help the young adult to think through his own diffi- 
culties and arrive at a Christian philosophy of life for to- 
day, it will thereby make a major contribution both to the 
individual growth and to the building of the Kingdom of 
God. 

CHARACTERISTICS OF ADULT LIFE 

But whether the young adult becomes cynical and dis- 
interested in religion or passes through the crisis without 
serious harm he continues to live in the modern world. 
Soon he will be an older adult. It will not be long before 
the younger group will say of him that he is "middle 
aged." And all too rapidly the white hair, the wrinkled 
forehead, the stooped shoulders, and the enfeebled body 
will mark him as an old man. "What happens to the per- 



THE MAKKS OF ADULTHOOD 39 

sonality as the adult makes his pilgrimage through the 
world? Can we discern the characteristics of adult life 
at its later levels? 

It is always dangerous to generalize, but we cannot think 
of adults as a class without doing so; and some generaliza- 
tion may be a genuine aid to the understanding if room 
is left for the numerous exceptions that occur. Clearly, 
some marks of adulthood are as inevitable as the passage 
of time and, whether we will or no, stamp themselves 
ineradicably upon us. They are largely physical marks, 
to be sure; but the physical body is the foundation of all 
else that we are; and though a vigorous spirit may some- 
times marvelously dominate that body, its changes tend 
to affect all our thinking, feeling, and doing. 

The adult years — so far as the physical life is concerned, 
and also the mental outlook and attitude to some extent, 
though less uniformly — may be divided into three roughly 
defined stages. The first third of this span of years we 
may conveniently call "early adulthood," the second 
third is the period familiar to us as "middle age," and 
the last, we shall refer to as "later adulthood" or "old 
age." 

EARLY ADULTHOOD 

It is not necessary for our present purposes that much 
more be said concerning the period of early adulthood. 
We have already indicated that it is a critical period for 
religious growth because of the conflicts which inevitably 
come and because of the readjustments which have to be 
made as the young adult faces life under the conditions 
imposed by the modern world. His problems, as those of 
the church in relation to him, are largely due to the na- 
ture of our social and economic life. So far as his own 
inner development is concerned, assuming good health, he 
is apt to be at the height of his physical condition and to 
be better equipped than he will ever be again for those 



40 THE UNDERSTANDING OF ADULT WAYS 

tasks that require energy and vigor. The emotional and 
intellectual turmoil of adolescence will have been passed, 
and the more or less unconscious stimuli that constantly 
flow to the brain from the various organs of the body will 
tend to give to the personality an underlying feeling-tone 
of optimism and power. If the young adult is happily 
married there will also be the physical and mental stimu- 
lus and relaxation which only the intimate companionship 
and the normal responsibilities of marriage can provide. 
It is hardly legitimate to compare the values of one period 
of life with the different values of another; but, by any 
standard, early adulthood should be characterized by zest- 
ful living, with a large measure of happiness in the pursuit 
of not-too-impossible goals for individual attainment and 
for social progress. Too often, however, the energy of 
the young adult is expended in the struggle to make a 
living ; the brief periods of release are given to the pursuit 
of pleasure; the goals of his idealistic striving become dim; 
and he succumbs to the matter-of-factness of middle age. 
In this transformation of the radical youth into the con- 
servative adult, one of the most powerful forces at work 
is the deep concern for economic security. An eminent 
physician who has had wide experience with people in dis- 
tress maintains that the strain of life, particularly the fear 
of old age and sickness and the deprivations of a man's 
loved ones, so wears upon the adult that out of ten ideal- 
ists at twenty only one is left at forty. 11 Even if this is 
an overstatement of the decline of idealism in young adults 
in general, it may well be true of the present generation, 
at least, which faces unusual difficulty in finding its place 
in the economic scheme. 

But whatever the social situation may be, changes which 
profoundly affect the personality occur within the human 
body as life goes on. The same person is not constitu- 

U A. Myerson, Foundations of Personality, p. 233. 



THE MAEKS OF ADULTHOOD 41 

tionally the same at different periods of his life. There 
are fundamental changes, for example, in the chemical 
make-up of the body, in the nature of the secretions of 
the ductless glands, in the influence of the organs of the 
body upon the general feeling-tone, and in the ability of 
the body to build up dead food into living matter and to 
release energy. These changes are most conspicuous at the 
extremes of life, in childhood and adolescence on the one 
hand and in old age at the other. But they cannot be 
ignored at other times, and their relation to the mental 
and spiritual life is of vital importance. It is chiefly be- 
cause of some of these changes in the physical constitution 
that the beginning of middle age has so commonly been 
placed somewhere in the forties. 

MIDDLE AGE 

In popular literature, and sometimes elsewhere, this pe- 
riod is spoken of as "the dangerous age." There are solid 
reasons why such a designation is not altogether a mis- 
nomer. Of course, every period of life has its dangers, 
and we are sometimes hindered more than we are helped 
by being made too conscious of them. Nevertheless, if the 
perils in the approach of middle age are to be overcome, 
they must be deliberately faced. At this time it is quite 
common for organic weaknesses to appear which youthful 
vigor has previously been able to keep hidden. If these 
do not actually become apparent and there is no medical 
examination to reveal them, this may be the time when 
they get their hold on the individual so that, when later 
discovered, they cannot be remedied. During these years, 
also, one may have to deal with the disconcerting mental 
states which frequently accompany the changes that take 
place in the sexual life. 

Perhaps the most common difficulty of middle age, how- 
ever, is that involved in making proper adjustment to the 



42 THE UNDEKSTANDING OF ADULT WAYS 

loss of vigor which is bound to occur sometime during this 
period and which, in many cases, comes rather suddenly to 
consciousness. The awareness of this acute decline in 
energy is all too often regarded by the adult as a threat to 
his sense of personal worth or as a sign of ' ' the beginning 
of the end" and thus as something to be kept from his 
friends and, as far as possible, even from himself. The 
man or the woman may therefore try to live more vigor- 
ously than ever, seeking to show vitality by doing the 
things that used to be done in youth and striving franti- 
cally to cover up the signs of increasing age. But rebellion 
against the inevitable is utterly futile and may but bring 
on more quickly the things that are feared. Unless men 
and women in middle life accept the situation philosophi- 
cally and adjust their program of living to the changed 
condition of the body, they will seriously endanger their 
health and do irreparable injury to personality. 

It is possible, however, for the forties and the fifties to 
mark the period of greatest individual achievement and to 
bring the richest understanding of life and the widest op- 
portunities for usefulness. The adult who makes proper 
adjustment to his lessened physical capacity and is content 
to live on a lower plane of energy may find that in all 
other respects he is still gaining power. If he has made 
good use of the experiences life has brought, he will have a 
background of knowledge of men and things which younger 
men and women lack and he will be able to excel in those 
activities that require sober judgment, quiet persistence, 
and the skills that only years of practice can give. It is 
this truth that "Walter Pitkin has emphasized, in a racy 
but convincing way, in his widely read little book, Life Be- 
gins at Forty. He gives a great deal of evidence of high 
accomplishment by men in later life and shows that most 
men of ability do not fully find themselves until they come 
near to the half-century mark. It is not until then, he 



THE MAKKS OF ADULTHOOD 43 

maintains, that the world really takes their measure and 
gives them their due rank. It is only then that it can 
be truthfully said, in the fullest sense, that they know how 
to live. 

LATER ADULTHOOD 

The line between middle age and later adulthood, like 
all other such dividing lines, is quite dim. Its location will 
vary with the individual. On the average, however, it 
must be placed somewhere in the later sixties. This is quite 
generally regarded as the time for retirement — where re- 
tirement is possible — from what is called "active life." 
And perhaps in that fact lies one of the most serious ob- 
stacles to continuing growth for older men and women. 
There may still be no serious impairment of their mental 
powers, and yet there is the ever-present suggestion that 
their work is done. If there has been no cultivation of 
interests outside of their vocation, they will now find that 
time hangs heavy on their hands and they may be plunged 
into unwholesome brooding and introspection. But if these 
later years have been prepared for by the development of 
interests which can still be pursued and are not harrowed 
by bitter economic struggle, ill-health, or a state of un- 
happy dependency, this period of life may be rich in its 
own values — priceless friendships, continuing usefulness 
in church and community, spiritual strength, and quiet 
contentment. Two men near seventy, who until a few 
years before had been active in business, met on the street. 
One, with an expression of utter boredom, complained that 
he did not know what to do with his time. "I wish you 
could give some of it to me," said the other with a smile, 
"I cannot find time enough to do the many things I still 
want to do." For the one man personality kept on grow- 
ing; for the other it was dead, though the body still lived. 



44 THE UNDERSTANDING OP ADULT WAYS 

Very late in life the deterioration of the physical and 
mental powers may be so great as to enfeeble the whole 
personality. Some fortunate old people keep a reasonable 
measure of mental vigor to the very end, but for most of 
those who live to great age the forces of disintegration 
triumph over the body and the mind. The aged person 
may become childish, or suspicious, or deceitful, or deeply 
depressed; but these traits, due to physical decay, are not 
expressions of the real self. In the Christian view it is a 
blessing when the release comes and there is an abundant 
entrance into the larger life. 

In this brief sketch of adult life, we have noted that some 
of the marks of adulthood are due to the toll of the pass- 
ing years and that others result from the pressures of 
modern life and the attitudes which men and women take 
toward them. The latter are not as inevitable as the former. 
They would be changed by a more Christian order of so- 
ciety. And many of them, even now, need never appear 
in the adult whose philosophy of life is sound. Thus, what 
may largely be true of adults now, need not always be true 
of them. 

MUST ADULTS SURRENDER TO HABIT ? 

Studies of adult life have often called attention to one 
trait which is said to be a general characteristic of the 
adult years. It is the crystallization of behavior into sys- 
tems of fixed habits : the dominance of the mind by routine, 
conformity to custom and dislike of change, the feeling 
that it is futile to attempt to change the course of human 
affairs. "The institutionalization of the adult," says one 
psychologist, "is his most striking psychological trait." 12 
One of his outstanding symptoms, says another, "is the 
dislike of change and the surrender to habit." 13 

"H. L. Hollingworth, Mental Growth and Decline, p. 281. D. Apple- 
ton-Century Co. 

"J. R. Oliver, The Ordinary Difficulties of Everyday People, p. 244. 
Alfred A. Knopf, publisher. 



THE MARKS OF ADULTHOOD 45 

Is this a necessary feature of the adult attitude toward 
life? Eoutine and habit are quite essential to efficient 
living at the adult level; but when they become masters 
rather than servants, when they dominate the personality 
instead of ministering to it, then spiritual paralysis sets 
in. Later chapters will make clear that most of us can 
avoid any such distressing outcome. It is even conceivable 
that in a social order which allowed more room for per- 
sonal development, with an education that brought out 
more fully the latent possibilities of the human spirit — it 
is conceivable that under those conditions one of the most 
conspicuous features of adult life would be its vigorous 
spiritual growth. In helping to bring about such a condi- 
tion the church must play a large part, for it exists, so its 
own Scriptures declare, in order that men and women ' ' may 
grow up in all things into him, who is the head, even 
Christ." 14 

SOURCE MATERIAL 

1. Meaning of maturity. — ' ' Growing up physically means coming 
to the end of physical development. Growing up emotionally means 
to get one's emotions more or less under control, so that in the 
crises of life, emotion can do its proper work in experience without 
interfering too much with the other functions of our beings, such 
as intelligence and will. That is to say, growing up physically and 
emotionally means establishing certain controls and uses within the 
ranges of these adolescent experiences. But growing up intellectually 
means something very different: it means the development of in- 
tellectual powers that are increasingly capable and venturesome; 
it means the escape from adolescent limitations into the boundless- 
ness of mind. The intelligence of the mature man ranges far be- 
yond the bounds of his physical environment ; it takes in the universe 
and all times; it encompasses the past and adventures the future. 
That is, the intellect grows most ready for adventure just when the 
body has attained its full growth." (Joseph K. Hart, Adult Edu- 
cation, p. 310. Used by permission of the author.) 

2. Transition to adulthood. — "The transition from childhood to 
adulthood is perhaps the most complete and sudden crisis in life. 

^American Standard Revision of the Holy Bible, Eph. 4 :15. Copy- 
right, International Council of Religious Education. Used by permis- 
sion. 



46 THE UNDERSTANDING OF ADULT WAYS 

The adult must try to earn a living at whatever job he can find, or 
in the way he considers right in his profession. He now has 
full responsibility for managing his own life. His mother and fa- 
ther do not arrange his marriage; this he does absolutely without 
guidance, even without any hints concerning the most fundamental 
and elementary facts of marriage and sex relations. He establishes 
his home, conducts his family life, rears his children. He finds his 
job and takes over adult business and civic duties. From the life 
of memorizing, idealizing, accepting dicta, he plunges headlong into 
the life of learning and doing. . . . The young adult is at the 
crossroads." (Jessie B. Charters, Young Adults and the Church, 
pp. 19, 25. Copyright, 1936. Used by permission of Abingdon- 
Cokesbury Press, publishers.) 

3. Accepting our limitations. — "When physical weaknesses or 
limitations are discovered there is but one sensible thing to do, and 
that is to accept the facts without fuming and to carry on a routine 
that gives the body a fair chance. How foolish it is for the bad 
sleeper to insist upon taking coffee at his evening meal or for the 
individual fighting diabetes to demand a great quantity of starchy 
food in his diet ! No one welcomes limitation, but no one learns much 
about himself who refuses to admit the weaknesses that exist in either 
body or mind and to protect himself from them in every way pos- 
sible. Strange as it may seem, it has proved a great advantage to 
many persons in their life work to be forced to recognize their 
handicaps and to organize their life program in the most protective 
way possible. Often they have outworked and outlived competitors 
who have been betrayed by their superabundance of vigor and 
health into carelessness and misuse of physical resources. . . . Since 
we cannot, if we wish, get rid of the physical side of the self, there 
is but one fruitful policy and that is to establish a cooperative rela- 
tion of mind and body." (Ernest E. Groves, Understanding Your- 
self, pp. 62-63. Emerson Books, Inc., publishers, New York, 1935.) 

QUESTIONS FOE THE EEADEE 

1. Which are the more important as distinguishing marks of adult- 
hood: inner growth of body and mind, or social experience such as 
going to work, matrimony, etc.? What is the relation of these to 
each other? 

2. Do you think it possible to make a list of traits characterizing 
adults in general? What are some of the traits you would include? 
Would these clearly distinguish the adult of thirty from the youth 
of twenty? 

3. Consider your own church and community. Do you find evi- 
dence in support of the contention of Mrs. Charters that "young 



THE MARKS OF ADULTHOOD 47 

adults" often experience the most complete and sudden crisis of 
their lives as they face the problems of the adult world? Is your 
church making a serious attempt to help them meet this crisis in a 
Christian way? 

4. A minister, aged fifty-five, recently said that he was much 
more open-minded and progressive in his thinking today than he 
was when he was twenty-five. Does conservatism usually increase 
with age? If so, under what circumstances may the relation be re- 
versed? 

5. If you are of middle age, have you made any readjustment of 
your program of life so as to allow for the inevitable decline of 
physical vigor and yet make possible the gaining of other kinds of 
power? 

6. What are the values in having a definite routine of life? What 
are the dangers? What changes do you think it would be beneficial 
for you to make in the routine of your own life? Why do you not 
make them? 

7. How does it happen that adults with physical handicaps have 
often outworked and outlived their fellows who were possessed of 
normal health and vigor? If possible, give some examples where this 
has occurred. (See Source Material No. 3.) 

QUESTIONS FOR GROUP DISCUSSION 

1. Questions 1, 2, 3, 4, and 7 above may be found suitable for 
group discussion. 

2. In your church school, what is the basis on which "younger 
adults"' are classified as adults rather than as young people? Are 
there any points of tension in your present grading of these groups? 
Why? Can you make suggestions as to how these points of tension 
might be removed? 

3. Why is the trend rightly away from making these stages the 
basis of adult grouping in the church school? What is a better 
basis for grouping adults? 

REPORTS AND INVESTIGATIONS 

1. Report on grouping in the Adult Department. See particularly, 
Young Adults in the Church, Diternational Council Bulletin No. 
415. 

2. Ask five young people and five adults to give you their ideas 
of the differences between adults and young people. Summarize 
the answers. Are the differences inevitable or do they concern traits 
that are subject to modification by educational means? 

3. Report on possible activities in the church program in which 
young people and adults might cooperate. 



In our endeavor to understand adults, the real mate- 
rials of our study must be not books, but persons — 
men and women of flesh and blood and mind and 
heart. Books may help us greatly, but their help is of 
the same sort as that of the railway guide or the 
automobile road map. They enable us to find our 
way among the intricate paths of human behavior, 
they help us to recognize the things we see in dif- 
ferent personalities and to grasp their significance, 
but they cannot portray the concrete reality of the 
men and women we meet. These men and women 
are individuals, and to try to make them fit the pic- 
ture presented in any book will generally mean their 
serious disfigurement. f$ The view of adult life so 
far presented, necessary as it is as a preliminary 
guide, cannot, therefore, be made to apply uniformly 
to the adults with whom we have to do. In any 
given case we may be confronted with an exception. 
The church member who seeks our counsel, or the 
friend whom we are trying to understand, may not 
conform to the general pattern. That much, at least, 
seems clear. Moreover, persons who are alike in 
some respects may be very different in others. <J In 
what ways do adults differ from one another? How 
great are their differences? What differences are 
there between the sexes? How far are we justified 
in classifying adults by "types" or in thinking of 
them in terms of the "average"? Answers to these 
questions are needed if we would properly under- 
stand our fellows or be equipped to help them. 



H 



CHAPTER THREE 

DIFFERENCES IN ADULTS 

Why Must We Think in Terms of the Individual? 



>AVE YOU EVER STOOD AT A VANTAGE POINT NEAR SOME 

city sidewalk and watched the endless stream of human 
beings passing by ? Who has not, at such a time, pondered 
the seemingly infinite variety of the human species? One 
may observe for hours without seeing two persons who even 
remotely resemble each other. Yet the differences which 
we note in features and bearing are only the most obvious 
ones, and they but faintly suggest the other differences 
which are hidden from our prying eyes. The young and 
the old, the healthy and the infirm, the brisk walk and the 
shambling gait, the face that registers boredom and the 
other face that speaks of an eager quest, the boy of sixteen 
a head taller than his father who walks at his side, the 
youth stoop-shouldered and blear-eyed and the white-haired 
man "straight as a staff," the anxious mother and the care- 
free wife — these differences we can see, most of them as 
clearly as the diversity in dress. But how much do we 
know of the variations in intelligence and skill, in imagina- 
tion and feeling, in character and disposition, or in any of 
the thousand other qualities that go to make up the human 
personality ? 

EXTENT OF INDIVIDUAL DIFFERENCES 

The observable and measurable traits offer the best start- 
ing point for studying the extent and character of individ- 
ual differences. If we were to measure the height of, say, 
a thousand men, selected at random from the American 
population, we know about what the result would be. There 
might be a few men as short as fifty-seven inches. Then 

49 



50 THE UNDERSTANDING OF ADULT WAYS 

if we arranged the men in groups according to height, the 
number in each group would become larger until we came 
to those whose height was about average, say sixty-five to 
sixty-nine inches. This would be the largest group. After 
that, the groups of taller men would gradually decrease 
in size, until in the last group there would be just a very 
few perhaps as tall as seventy-six inches. These facts 
could be graphically portrayed by a curve which, starting 
on the left at a point representing the shortest person, 
would gradually rise as it moved across the page until, at 
about the middle, it indicated the largest number of men 
somewhere about the sixty-seven-inch mark. The rest of 
the way it would decline at about the same rate it had 
risen, ending at the right at a point standing for the tallest 
man. Such an arrangement is known as the normal dis- 
tribution curve, and the very tall, or the very short, people 
are said to be at the extremes of the curve. 

Suppose one of these thousand men is an acquaintance of 
ours — a Sunday school class member whose character 
puzzles us, or a church board member who has caused no 
end of trouble. As we think of him we have no difficulty 
in knowing where he belongs in the curve, so far as height 
is concerned. We know that he falls somewhere near the 
middle (average) or at the upper extreme or, perhaps, half- 
way between these points, as the case may be. That fact, 
however, is not of much value to us in our effort to under- 
stand him; unless perchance his extreme height has made 
him unduly sensitive, or his extreme shortness has caused 
him to feel insignificant and therefore to try to gain atten- 
tion by being obstreperous. But when we are thinking of 
his intelligence, his nervous energy, the quality of his 
imagination, his domestic happiness, the integrity of his 
character, or the genuineness of his religious feeling — 
where would he stand in that sort of distribution curve? 



DIFFERENCES IN ADULTS 51 

About this, for the most part, we can only speculate; yet 
it is possible that in any one of these qualities he may be 
just as exceptional as he is, perhaps, in physical height. 
And very probably, in any sufficiently large and unselected 
group of persons, the differences would be just as great in 
these more subtle elements of personality as they are in 
those which are external and more easily measured. 

KINDS OF INDIVIDUAL DIFFERENCES 

It is scarcely possible to think of any phase of personal- 
ity where important differences among individuals will not 
be found. Motives and attitudes, temperament and 
sociability, interests and emotional control — these all vary 
from man to man and from woman to woman. Adults like- 
wise differ in their reactions to the constant bombardment 
of ideas and influences to which they are subjected in the 
modern world. Let the reader think of some of his friends 
while reading of the following differences noted by a close 
observer of human behavior. There are some people, he 
says, for whom competition is a chief stimulus to achieve- 
ment, and others who are crushed by it; some people who 
like monotony, and others to whom it is deadly; some peo- 
ple who are exceedingly sensitive to praise and blame 
(tender-egoed), and others who are but little influenced by 
the opinions of their fellows (tough-egoed) ; some people 
for whom the control of sex passion is relatively easy, and 
others for whom it is a never-ending struggle that inter- 
feres with their usefulness and health; some people whose 
chief interest is in the inner world of feelings, thoughts, 
and desires, and others whose main concern is to get things 
done in the outer world of people and things. 1 When we 
consider these facts, it requires no great amount of in- 
sight to see why it is so often difficult for us to understand 

*See Foundations of Personality, pp. 170, 39, 133 and When Life 
Loses Its Zest, pp. 82, 88, by A. Myerson. Little, Brown & Co., Boston, 
publisher. 



52 THE UNDERSTANDING OP ADULT WAYS 

one another. The really remarkable thing is that in our 
rough and ready way we manage to get along as well as we 
do. 

Since these differences extend to every "nook and 
cranny" of that complex whole we call personality, we 
should expect to find marked variation, likewise, in the 
religious experience of adults. And that is just what turns 
out to be the fact. Differences in this realm are probably 
as great as in any other, although in our church practice 
we have been slow to recognize them. Certain patterns 
of religious experience all too often have been accepted as 
norms, and the individual whose religious life did not con- 
form to the pattern has had difficulty in being accepted 
by the group. 

VARIATION IN RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCE 

Perhaps the most obvious instance of this failure to 
recognize differences is where a particular type of conver- 
sion experience is insisted upon as evidence of genuine re- 
ligious faith. Many persons have gone through bitter 
struggles in an unsuccessful effort to gain a certain kind of 
religious experience which, because of their temperament 
or disposition, was for them practically impossible; while 
others have more or less unconsciously feigned the experi- 
ence because it was expected of them. An earnest Chris- 
tian — one of a distinctly practical turn of mind and emo- 
tionally somewhat stolid — told the writer of his own pain- 
ful efforts to gain a certain kind of conversion experience 
that never came to him and probably never could have 
come to him. If he had not found a religious group that 
was willing to accept him on the basis of his simple faith 
and personal commitment to Christ, he might have been 
lost to the church. Yet the genuineness of his religious 
experience is attested by his long years of rigorous self- 



DIFFERENCES IN ADULTS 53 

discipline in preparing himself for the ministry and by 
many more years of efficient and devoted Christian service 
in a very difficult and trying section of the foreign mission 
field. 

Marked differences may be noted in every phase of the 
religious life. For some Christians the awareness of God 
is so vivid that the Divine Presence seems as "real" as 
that of a friend who enters the room; for others it may be 
simply a quiet consciousness ' ' that in doing their duty they 
are doing what is wanted and expected of them, and put- 
ting themselves in line with something bigger and better 
than themselves." 2 There are people for whom religion 
is nothing if not given free expression in words and who 
find it relatively easy to speak of the things they believe; 
there are others who, for a variety of reasons, say little 
about their faiths but nevertheless quietly act upon them. 
This kind of life-attitude may sometimes be found even 
among those who make little profession of religion. It 
is what Donald Hankey called "the religion of the in- 
articulate," and its true character can be discovered only 
by observing the actions of such people and the objects 
of their admiration. The varieties of religious experience 
may thus range "all the way from the violent or cata- 
clysmic type of conversion to experiences which some would 
not label as at all religious. ' ' 3 

CAUSE OF RELIGIOUS DIFFERENCES 

The reason for these variations in religious experience 
will be understood best in the light of all the matters dis- 
cussed in later chapters of this book. Basically, it is be- 
cause the religious life of men and women varies with all 



2 John Baillie, The Roots of Religion in the Human Soul, p. 131. 
Harper & Bros., New York. 

^International Curriculum Guide, Book IV. Copyright, Interna- 
tional Council of Religious Education. Used by permission. 



54 THE UNDERSTANDING OF ADULT WAYS 

the other differences in their personalities and is influenced 
by all the factors that make us what we are. 4 

The uncultured person whose imagination is vivid and 
more or less unrestrained will naturally have a different 
kind of religion from that, let us say, of the scientist whose 
thought has been disciplined by years of patient checking 
and testing. How can religion mean the same to the adult 
whose response to life is dominated by fear and to the man 
or woman who from the earliest years has learned to face 
life in an attitude of trust ? For the Christian who himself 
has experienced a genuine but gradual spiritual growth, 
sudden and climacteric change may seem to be quite un- 
necessary to a wholesome religious life; but for one who 
has come to integration of character and religious certitude 
by means of such change, it may well appear to be one of 
the essentials. How different, also, is the religious experi- 
ence of the man who lifts every important decision of his 
life to the religious level, from that of his neighbor who 
thinks in religious terms only when attending church or 
engaging in a theological discussion! 

The adult who has been brought up in an atmosphere 
where religious fervor was freely expressed, or where re- 
vivalism was almost the only form of religious activity, will 
probably find it difficult to understand the quiet devotion 
of the Quakers or the more formal worship of the liturgical 
churches. And marked differences of religious expression, 
due in part to early training but also to temperamental 
factors, may be found within a single congregation. In 
a church of any considerable size there are likely to be 
some people for whom religion is chiefly a matter of observ- 
ing traditional practices and assenting to traditional be- 
liefs. These beliefs and practices, accepted on authority, 
are for them the signs of true faith. In the same congre- 

4 For a brief summary of factors affecting the religious life, see 
Source Material No. 1 at the end of this chapter. 



DIFFERENCES IN ADULTS 55 

gation, however, there will be other Christians who are sure 
that the heart of religion is a deeply felt experience and 
that the test of genuine faith is its emotional depth. There 
may be, also, a few members of the congregation for whom 
religion is a reasoned philosophy — a rational way of think- 
ing of life as a whole — the satisfaction of a present in- 
tellectual need rather than either a traditional system or an 
emotional experience. And there are likely to be a few in 
the group who see religion as a practical necessity of life. 
Beliefs and attitudes for them are to be tested by their 
practical worth. They are held because they contribute to 
the sense of personal adequacy and to effective living or 
because they offer a basis for the solution of the larger 
social problems of the day. 5 Can the reader not detect 
differences like these among his church friends? Perhaps 
it will not be difficult to discern them also in the changes of 
interest and emphasis at different periods in his own re- 
ligious development. 

WHAT ABOUT THE AVERAGE MAN? 

The differences we have been considering make it neces- 
sary that our study of adult personality be made largely 
a study of individuals. Because it is impossible, however, 
in a book of this kind, to consider many individuals, vari- 
ous devices have been used for getting a sort of composite 
picture of personality or of one phase or another of our 
physical or mental life. One of these devices is the "sta- 
tistical average." Perhaps the reader has already been 
saying to himself that the variations we have been dis- 
cussing pertain only to the few very exceptional persons; 
that, after all, the average man is just like the great host of 
his fellows. Is this correct? 

Our thinking about the average man can very easily lead 
us into serious error. Averages may be useful, especially 

"See Religious Consciousness, by James B. Pratt, pp. 14-21. 



56 THE UNDERSTANDING OF ADULT WAYS 

where simple physical measurements are concerned; but 
they are really mathematical symbols and do not give a 
true picture of any actually existing person. They do 
not describe John Smith or Mary Brown, even if these 
members of the rank and file are often said to be "about 
average. ' ' We may say that the average man has a height 
of 67 inches and weighs 150 pounds; yet the reader might 
experience some difficulty in finding among his acquaint- 
ances a man who exactly filled even these simple specifica- 
tions. Moreover, were he to succeed in finding such a man, 
he would almost certainly discover that in some other re- 
spects — perhaps in the development of a particular skill, 
or in solid honesty, or in devotion to family or church — 
he proved not to be an " average man ' ' at all. 

Averages, then, may be helpful in our endeavor to under- 
stand adults, especially when we are thinking in terms 
of how much our acquaintances may vary from the mean; 
but averages may be very misleading if we assume that 
they give us a true picture of the particular persons with 
whom we have to do. Adults are individuals. Each per- 
sonality is, in some sense, unique. 

ARE THERE PERSONALITY TYPES? 

The attempt to reduce the almost infinite variety of hu- 
man personality to a form that would make it easier to 
understand and to deal with has also been made by group- 
ing persons into "types." This is sometimes suggestive 
and may be practically helpful, but it, too, may easily lead 
to the error of over-simplification and thus become a 
hindrance to the proper understanding of adults. 

How much easier the study of adult life would be made 
if a few common types of personality could be designated 
and all the persons we meet be classified according to them. 
But there are two good reasons why this cannot legiti- 



DIFFERENCES EST ADULTS 57 

mately be done. One is that types, like averages, are ab- 
stractions, while the persons we have to deal with are con- 
crete individuals. They may approximate types but they 
cannot precisely conform to them. The other reason is 
that there is not very much agreement among psychologists 
as to the definition of personality types or even as to 
whether they really exist. There will be suggestive value, 
however, in a brief discussion of some of the efforts to dis- 
tinguish different types of personality. 

Perhaps the most easily recognized of these have to do 
with physical structure. Anthropologists have long dif- 
ferentiated between "longheaded" and "roundheaded" 
human beings, and this fundamental distinction is believed 
by some writers to extend to the whole physical frame. 
They speak, therefore, of the linear and the lateral types: 
the former referring to those who are constitutionally thin 
and angular, with long slender muscles; the latter to per- 
sons of stocky build, with thick muscles and bones. In the 
physical realm, these have been said to be "the only two 
common or normal human types," but their psychological 
significance is not easy to determine. One authority main- 
tains that persons of the linear type are usually the more 
energetic, nervous, and adventurous, while those of the 
lateral form are apt to be easy-going and cautious. 6 

Psychiatrists, too, often make use of the type concept. 
They tend to classify persons according to their psychic 
constitution; that is, their tendency (generally believed 
to be inborn) to react to life in certain characteristic ways. 
For example, it is believed that there are some persons who 
are constitutionally unsocial, who really prefer to be left- 
alone, and who, in every realm of life, seek to avoid reality. 
Others are believed to be constitutionally moody — subject 

•See The Physical Basis of Personality, by Stockard, pp. 286, 291. 



58 THE UNDERSTANDING OF ADULT WAYS 

to extremes of elation or of depression. Additional types, 
likewise, are thought to have their characteristic tend- 
encies. 7 

Another way of classifying men and women into types 
has been widely used. Modern discussions of personality 
almost invariably have something to say about introverts 
and extroverts. Who is the introvert? "Who the extrovert? 
Can all adults be placed in one or the other of these 
groups ? 

INTROVERT AND EXTROVERT 

This method of classifying personalities was developed 
by the eminent psychologist Jung, and it has been followed 
with some modification by many others. If used judiciously 
it may be helpful in our endeavor to understand people. 
The extreme introvert is the kind of person whose absorb- 
ing interests lie within himself. These interests are 
thoughts, ideas, feelings, and the like rather than objects 
in the outer world of men and things. This does not neces- 
sarily mean that he is selfish, in the ordinary meaning of 
the word, for his dreams and reflections may be about social 
reconstruction or universal brotherhood. It does mean, 
however, that he is almost irresistibly impelled to occupy 
himself with ideas, principles, and theories rather than 
with direct responses in overt action to the stimulus of his 
environment. 

The introvert is apt to be more introspective, imagina- 
tive, self-conscious, and retiring than other persons, and 
naturally he is more interested than they are in such pur- 
suits as reading, writing, art, and philosophy. In his re- 
ligious experience he tends either toward mysticism or 
toward making his religion a system of thought, and he is 
likely to place more emphasis upon the worship of the 

'Note the list of personality types in the source material at the end 
of this chapter. For a full discussion of personality from this view- 
point, see The Human Mind, by Menninger, Chapter II. 



DIFFERENCES IN ADULTS 59 

church than upon its organizational life or its service pro- 
gram. He may be a radical; but if so, his will be a kind 
of theoretical radicalism that seeks the ideal reconstruction 
of the world rather than some immediately practical course 
of action. 

The extrovert, on the other hand, is the man of action. 
He goes out to meet his world and is attracted by the ob- 
jects in it. He is at his best when experiencing vigorous 
sensory stimulation and he likes to feel his muscles tingle. 
He probably enjoys the zest of business competition and 
prefers to associate with practical men who "get things 
done." He generally manifests the cruder, more primary 
emotions and is apt to have very little interest in the fine 
arts. In his thinking, he makes quick decisions in the light 
of the immediate situation and is not greatly troubled 
about the more remote consequences. So far as religion 
is concerned, he is attracted to its more objective side — the 
church as a "going concern," the traditional and well- 
established religious ideas, the practical program of hu- 
manitarian service. 

The men and women we meet from day to day cannot 
be readily placed in either of these groups for the simple 
reason that everyone must give some attention both to his 
own thought and feeling and to his outer world. But in 
extreme cases, where one kind of interest or the other 
largely dominates the life, the types are fairly clear. Per- 
haps the balanced personality is that of the person who can 
turn without difficulty from absorption in the world of 
thought to vigorous participation in the world of action 
and who has prolonged interests in both realms. To desig- 
nate persons of this kind some psychologists use the term 
wnibivert. 

In addition to the use of averages and of personality 
types, another common device for getting a composite pic- 



60 THE UNDERSTANDING OF ADULT WAYS 

ture of different kinds of adult personality is to make two 
lists of traits, designating one as masculine and the other 
as feminine. 

THE MASCULINE AND THE FEMININE 

The division of human beings into male and female is 
in some respects the most fundamental division that can 
be made, and yet, when our study is of psychological traits, 
especially at the higher levels of mental life, it becomes 
quite apparent that the differences between the sexes are 
much less important than differences between individuals. 

There are, of course, many obvious sex differences, espe- 
cially in physical form and in the various artifices by which 
men and women respond to the traditions and customs of 
modern society. Some fundamental differences may be 
noted also in temperament and emotional life — men tend- 
ing to be more active and manifesting deeper and more 
prolonged emotion ; women, to be more willing to accept a 
sedentary life, more parental, and more given to emotional 
expression. But when we come to the higher mental levels, 
the differences between the sexes seem steadily to diminish. 
It may be that women excel in memory and in some kinds 
of imagination and that men have the greater ability in 
perceiving relationships between truths, but if so the differ- 
ences are small. "In practically every test of the higher 
mental processes," says Professor Burt, "so far as they 
turn on inborn capacity, the averages for the two sexes 
are almost identical." 8 From a still more fundamental 
standpoint, based on the insight gained in the confessional 
box of the physician's consulting room, Professor Prince 
ventures the opinion that ' ' human nature is all the same in 
whatever sex it is incarnated. ' ' 9 

8 Cyril Burt, How the Mind Works, p. 190. D. Appleton-Century 
Co., New York. 

B Morton Prince, Psychologies of 1925, p. 252. Clark University- 
Press, Worcester, Mass. 



DIFFERENCES IN ADULTS 61 

We shall not gain much in our effort to understand 
adults, then, by pushing aside some peculiarity of human 
behavior with the remark, "Well, that's because she's a 
woman," or, "That's a man for you"; and it is altogether 
possible for us to make too much of sex groupings in adult 
education. Differences of interest must, of course, be 
recognized and should be constantly studied. But the 
main consideration from the standpoint of education, or 
of religion, is always individual ability and need. The 
differences in personality and character traits among 
women and those in the same realm among men are far 
greater than the differences between the averages of the 
two sexes. 

UNIQUENESS OF PERSONALITY 

The fact of individual differences makes it clear that in 
seeking to understand any particular personality, we must 
be careful not to suppose it to be cast in the same mold as 
that of the last person we met. Especially do we need to be 
on guard against assuming that other people necessarily 
think and feel as we ourselves do. The adults with whom 
we daily associate are not "all of a piece," and we shall 
never deal with them successfully unless we learn to make 
proper allowance for their individual endowments, their 
habitual reactions, and their special limitations or ca- 
pacities. 

Once we recognize this uniqueness, however, our interest 
in everything that has to do with persons will be greatly 
increased. Our fellows are not just men or women, in- 
troverts or extroverts, above average or below average, re- 
ligious or irreligious, "tender-egoed" or "tough-egoed" — 
they are persons, each with some kind of individuality. 
Working with them can never be monotonous for it will 
demand variety in our methods and approaches and will 
tend to heighten our regard for each person with whom 



62 THE UNDERSTANDING OF ADULT WAYS 

we have to do. Herbert Gray has reminded us that poli- 
ticians and others who deal with men and women in the 
mass often become cynical about human nature, but that 
those who sympathize with and help individuals come 
nearer to having a love for all men. As a race we are 
stupid and quarrelsome, but one by one we are lovable. 
"I have found the divine spark over and over again," he 
writes, ' ' in people who began by showing me their ugliness 
and their folly. I have found that ' something that can be 
loved ' in person after person though I knew them to begin 
with as drunkards, or deceivers, or snobs, or failures in 
connection with sex, or partially hypocrites or hysterical 
weaklings. ... I revere human personality with more 
and not less sincerity as I have come to know many per- 
sons. ' no 

Despite the fact of correlation between abilities (i.e., the 
observed rule that the person who ranks high in one trait 
is likely to rank high in others), almost every adult has 
some potential lines of growth which, if given proper 
stimulus and encouragement, might yield rich results in 
personal satisfaction and social good. The church has a 
special opportunity to give this needed encouragement be- 
cause it is in constant contact with large numbers of adults 
from every walk of life. It should have a special interest 
in giving it because of the Christian doctrine that the 
worth of persons cannot be measured by their cleverness, 
position, or wealth. Adult leaders who are possessed of 
patience and insight will make it one of their main con- 
cerns to discover and develop special aptitudes. At least 
they will do this if their service is rendered in the spirit 
of Him who knew what was in men and who, though he saw 
their limitations with crystal clearness, kept to the end 
his faith in their divine possibilities. 

10 A. Herbert Gray, About People, p. 15. Charles Scribner's Sons, 
New York. 



DIFFERENCES IN ADULTS 63 

SOURCE MATERIAL 

1. Differences in religious experience. — The International Cur- 
riculum Guide discusses the reasons for variety in religious experi- 
ence under the following heads: (a) differences in the emotional, 
mental, and volitional make-up of individuals; (6) differences in 
religious environment; (c) differences in general cultural back- 
ground; (d) differences arising out of varying responses in specific 
life-situations such as bereavement, financial reverses, loss of health, 
filial love, and the like. One result of these differences may be seen 
in the contrast between religious experience involving emotional up- 
heaval and that which is chiefly a gradual growth. "Great numbers 
of Christian men and women attest to the fact that their religious 
growth has been so gradual from childhood that they cannot point 
to a definite conversion experience although there have been in their 
development innumerable experiences of fellowship with God and 
many moments of high decision and self -surrender. Religious experi- 
ence has been a normal part of growth. St. Paul and St. Augustine 
had experiences involving direct and immediate awareness of God, 
self-surrender and commitment to a new way of life. Their experi- 
ences were of the cataclysmic type. The experience of Timothy on 
the other hand was one characterized by gradual growth, though 
we recognize it as no less real and genuine. Between the two ex- 
tremes there are any number of possible variations. The needful 
thing is to recognize that validity is based, not upon any typical 
form which the conversion experience may take, but on the quality 
of its contribution to Christian living." (Book IV. Copyright, 
International Council of Eeligious Education. Used by permission.) 

2. Personality types. — Dr. Karl A. Menninger lists seven types of 
personalities that are prone to have difficulty in making their life 
adjustments: (a) The organic disease type, or crippled personalities, 
whose weaknesses are due to actual organic disease; (fe) the hypo- 
phrenic type, or stupid personalities, made up of persons of very low 
intelligence; (c) the isolation type, or lonely personalities, whose 
deficiencies are due, in the main, to artificial separation from human 
contacts; (d) the schizoid type, or queer personalities, who are 
constitutionally unsocial and who really prefer to be left out of 
tilings; (e) the cycloid type, or moody personalities, who are subject 
to more or less extreme periods of elation or of depression or alter- 
nately of both; (/) the neurotic type, or frustrated personalities, 
who are prone to have nervous disorders because of the thwarting of 
fundamental impulses; (g) the anti-social type, or perverse per- 
sonabties, among whom are grouped the criminals and those "who 
damage everyone and everything without much damage to them- 
selves." (Condensed from The Human Mind, pp. 28ff. Alfred A. 
Knopf, publisher, New York, 1930.) 



64 THE UNDERSTANDING OF ADULT WAYS 

3. Uniqueness of personality. — "If, as seems to be a fact, every 
individual actually differs in some discernible way from all the others, 
then obviously each of us is biologically unique. . . . Each per- 
sonality is a class by itself with a supreme position in that class. 
This is biologically a product cf the distribution of the genes and 
of the evolution of the personality; sociologically it finds its expres- 
sion in a unique combination of capacities for adjustment. If the 
division of labor were rational each individual would do the work 
for which he is best fitted. In this way society would most profit 
from the uniqueness of each individual." (Dodge and Kahn, 
The Craving for Superiority, p. 33. Yale University Press, 1931.) 

QUESTIONS FOE THE READER 

1. Call to mind someone with whom you are well enough ac- 
quainted to enable you to estimate his character and personality. For 
some of the psychological traits mentioned in the text — say, in- 
telligence, nervous energy, imagination, integrity of character, depth 
of religious feeling — where in the curve of distribution would you 
judge this person to be properly placed? What differences are ap- 
parent in his position for the different traits? 

2. Would you regard yourself as being "tender-egoed" or 
"tough-egoed, " over-sensitive to what others think of you or not 
sufficiently sensitive to their valuation of you? Have you ever faced 
your problem frankly, allowing your philosophy of life to modify 
your responses in the direction of a better social adjustment? 

3. Which of the four kinds of religious expression — traditional, 
emotional, rational, and practical — seems to you to be the most 
common? Which do you think is the most truly Christian? 

4. From among well-known characters of history (or of the 
present), name some men or women who you think were probably 
introverts and some who were probably extroverts. Why do you 
so classify them? 

5. In the churches of the United States there are 125 women to 
every 100 men. In some communions there are less than half as 
many males as females. Do these figures indicate that women are 
more interested in religion than men? Why? Why not? 

6. Do you know an adult who would have to be considered "about 
average" in some respects, but who is obviously far above average 
in some particular trait or ability? What is the significance of this 
trait or ability in relation to his total personality? 

QUESTIONS FOR GROUP DISCUSSION 

1. Of the above questions, 3, 4, 5, and 6 might be made the basis 
of group discussion. 



DIFFERENCES EST ADULTS 65 

2. How many members of the group feel that their own re- 
ligious experience should be described mainly in terms of ' ' gradual 
growth"? Of "sudden change"? In other terms? Do the four 
factors mentioned in Source Material No. 1 throw any light on these 
differences? 

3. Does the adult program of your church and church school over- 
emphasize sex groupings? Does it sufficiently recognize sex differ- 
ences ? 

EEPOKTS AND INVESTIGATIONS 

1. Eeport on incidents in the Gospels showing Jesus' respect for 
personality — his sympathetic interest in individual differences. 

2. Check yourself or someone else for introversion and extrover- 
sion. Chapter IV of Exploring Your Mind With the Psychologist by 
A. E. Wiggam contains a simple test. 



The more we study persons, the more it becomes 
apparent that they differ, not only in the separate 
traits which are the component parts of personality, 
but also in the total pattern of personality which 
is formed as these parts are welded into an or- 
ganized whole. €J The analogy has been drawn be- 
tween developed personality and a stained glass 
window. A thousand pieces of glass, varying in 
shape, size, and color, might be thrown into a pile, 
with the necessary lead to fasten them together ; but 
that would not make a window. The distinctiveness 
of the window lies in the fact that the pieces of glass 
are related to one another in a certain way. They 
constitute an organized whole and are not simply a 
fortuitous assembly of parts. Another thousand 
pieces of glass, even though they were of the same 
sizes, shapes, and colors, might be put together so 
as to make an entirely different pattern. CJ Adult 
personalities, similarly, are organized wholes. But 
instead of their having the fixity of the stained 
glass window, they have the plasticity of all living 
things and the volition of the human spirit. More- 
over, the "parts" that go to make up any one of them 
are by no means identical with those of any other. 
When we study the personality of some acquaint- 
ance, therefore, what we have before us is a unique 
combination of elements which, in turn, vary in char- 
acter from those of any other persons. ^ Having 
given some consideration to adults as to these con- 
stituent elements, let us now look at the "assembled" 
adult personality and raise the question: How do 
persons become what they are? And this, Holling- 
worth has said, is perhaps the most important ques- 
tion that can be asked in the field of psychology. 



L 



CHAPTER FOUR 

ADULTS IN THE MAKING 

How Do Adults Become What They Are? 



ET THE READER CALL TO MIND SOME ADULT ACQUAINT- 

ance — a next-door neighbor, a business associate, a friend 
who lives in the country, a member of an adult group at the 
church, the best man he ever knew, the janitor of a nearby 
school, or some other of whom he has some intimate knowl- 
edge. A little reflection will probably suffice to bring out 
the uniqueness of the individual and to suggest many in- 
teresting lines of thought as to the possible factors de- 
termining this particular personality. This will be true, 
not alone of the conspicuously successful person, the 
woman of outstanding Christian devotion, or the man of 
great professional skill — it will be found true also of many 
persons who, when casually considered, might be passed by 
as mediocre. The more intimate our acquaintance with 
men and women, the more they leave the impression that 
whether they annoy us or please us they can hardly be said 
to be ordinary. Any of them will repay study. Not a 
few will grow on us with further acquaintance. 

What is it that comes to our minds when we reflect upon 
these adult personalities? First of all, perhaps, we have 
a mental picture of their physical appearance— their build, 
facial expression, bearing, manner of wearing clothes, and 
the like. But we soon find ourselves recalling more sig- 
nificant aspects of personality. We think of their accom- 
plishments, of their attitudes, habits and character, of 
their ways of acting under strain, of the things they do 
that make us like them or dislike them, of their relation 
to some group or institution with which they have become 

67 



68 THE UNDERSTANDING OP ADULT WAYS 

identified in our thinking. If we reflect further, we shall, 
no doubt, be able to form some judgment of the dominant 
trends of their lives and of their characteristic modes of 
behavior; for by the time adulthood is reached, the various 
elements in the individual's make-up are linked together so 
as to form a distinctive pattern with which all of his re- 
actions tend to be consistent. 

WHAT IS PERSONALITY % 

It is this organized system of responses that we have 
chiefly in mind when we speak of developed personality. 
True, personality embraces all that one is and does, in- 
cluding such varied elements as physique, mentality, habits, 
disposition, quickness or slowness of movement, aspirations, 
and ethical ideals. But it is a superficial use of the word 
to identify it with any one of these, such as impressive 
physique or likable disposition. It is only as the individual 
attains a measure of unity in the expression of all such 
factors, only as a consistent pattern of response is de- 
veloped, that we can really describe his personality. And 
this personality may be strong or weak, depending upon 
the degree to which the pattern has unity and is well- 
defined. It may also be good or bad. If it is good, it will 
be because the unified purposes and activities of the in- 
dividual are directed toward high and worthy ends. 

A complete description of any personality must neces- 
sarily be lengthy and detailed. Yet because of these pat- 
terns of behavior it is possible to tell a good deal about an 
individual even in a thumb-nail sketch. Let us, then, 
glance at a few adult personalities chosen almost at 
random. 

A man whose daily work at the factory was little more 
than drudgery surprised his friends by his variety of in- 
terests. He read widely, wrote and published some short 
stories, and in odd hours did many kinds of skillful work 



ADULTS IN THE MAKING 69 

in wood and metal. In his youth, by force of circumstances, 
he had become settled in his uncongenial occupation; but 
despite the years of drudgery and the coming of old age, 
he has kept an active mind and a stimulating personality 
that make much younger men seek his company. Another 
man, in a calling with much greater opportunity for mental 
and spiritual stimulation, has succumbed to the routine of 
his work. His daily round of activities is carried on with 
a kind of inhuman regularity and with no critical evalua- 
tion. He has practically no interests outside of his work 
and could scarcely function effectively anywhere else. The 
observer of his manner of life finds it scarcely possible to 
resist the suggestion that he is looking at a robot. 

TWO CHURCH COMMITTEEMEN 

On an important committee in a certain congregation 
there is a layman who has given many hours of voluntary 
and effective service to the church. There can be no ques- 
tion about his loyalty to the institution and his interest in 
its work. Yet he is very jealous of his prerogatives and 
requires much personal recognition in order to work well. 
If this is not forthcoming he shows his hurt feelings and 
perhaps offers his resignation; but as the resignation is 
declined and his work is freely praised, he again takes 
up his tasks with enthusiasm. The chairman of another 
committee had once hoped to enter the ministry and had 
begun his pre-theological training, but finding that he was 
not equipped to pursue his studies successfully, changed 
his course and entered business. The adjustment of his 
life's program, however, did not alter his ideals. Com- 
bining his business experience with his religious interests, 
he has quietly rendered a distinctive service to the church 
and is unquestionably one of its most useful members. In 
the process, his personality has been greatly strengthened. 



70 THE UNDERSTANDING OF ADULT WAYS 

A college graduate, with a little not-very-successful ex- 
perience in business and a wife and family to support, 
found himself without work. He made no serious effort 
to discover the reasons for his failure or to study and prac- 
tice the methods by which others in his field managed to 
succeed. Instead, he became very critical of the economic 
system and developed a cynical attitude toward everything 
connected with it. For a time he worked rather devotedly 
in the church but because he was domineering in his leader- 
ship and was over-sensitive to criticism, it was not long be- 
fore he had aroused friction and had to drop out. "When 
he thought the wind was blowing in the right direction he 
made some effort to secure a job by the political route but 
did not succeed. Now he talks about fantastic money- 
raising schemes, while his wife earns most of the support 
of the family. 

Another graduate, in a somewhat similar situation, tried 
several lines of endeavor with only moderate success but 
worked consistently at them and profited by his study of 
the best methods used in these fields. In the end he found 
a permanent work that yielded a comfortable income and a 
maximum of personal satisfaction. 

These descriptive sketches portray imperfect but real 
persons, the kind of persons who make up our world and 
whom we must seek to understand. How may we account 
for the worker who has kept an active mind, the committee- 
man who has to be recognized, or the college graduates 
whose reactions to early failure were so different? Brief 
though the descriptions are, reflection upon them may sug- 
gest at least some of the factors that enter into the making 
of adult personality. What are these factors? If the 
reader, before going further, will try to formulate his own 
answer, the exercise will make more profitable our discus- 
sion of the question: How do persons become what they 
are? 



ADULTS IN THE MAKING 71 

THE PHYSICAL BASIS OF LIFE 

In taking up the question, the first consideration must be 
the physical or organic basis of personality. Every 
thoughtful person knows that there is a close relation be- 
tween mind and body, between personality and physique, 
and that individuals differ from the very beginning in their 
inherited potentialities. "With the possible exception of 
identical twins, no two persons start in the race of life from 
exactly the same place. In the union of the germ cells that 
launches the new life on the pre-natal stage of its long 
voyage, there is already a unique combination of those 
parts of the germ cells, the genes, that are the determiners 
of hereditary traits. In this union there are almost infinite 
possibilities of varying combinations of these factors. A 
biologist has pointed out that on one side of the combina- 
tion (female), from which his own individual constitution 
was derived, there were more than 17,000 germ cells and 
on the other (male), over 300 billions, any one of which 
might have united with any one of the 17,000. The par- 
ticular combination that did occur was, therefore, one in 
five millions of billions. 1 

Although constantly modified by what happens through- 
out life, the inherited constitution of the individual has a 
great bearing upon all that he is or becomes. It gives to 
him, among other things, a particular physical form and 
nervous make-up, his special aptitudes, his own degree 
of strength or of weakness in the basic drives, and his 
pattern for the activity of the ductless glands which largely 
control temperament. It is possible that it determines, 
also, the general features of his psychological type. 

By the time adulthood is reached, however, the inherited 
constitution has been so greatly modified by the life 
struggle that with regard to many traits it is exceedingly 

J H. S. Jennings, quoted by Stockhard in The Physical Basis of 
Personality! pp. 67-68. W. W. Norton & Co., New York, publisher. 



72 THE UNDERSTANDING OP ADULT WAYS 

difficult, in fact impossible, to separate clearly that which 
is inborn from that which has been acquired. Yet in seek- 
ing a satisfactory adjustment to life, the adult may have 
to try to make this separation for himself and to face 
frankly its implications. Some elements in his hereditary 
make-up he may have to accept as limitations within which 
he will be content to live, as did the church committeeman 
who was not equipped to study for the ministry. Others, 
he may be able to modify by patient and persistent devo- 
tion to life-purposes which require that such changes be 
made. 

Hereditary background is of great importance in seeking 
to understand why persons become what they are, but for 
our present purpose we are more interested in environ- 
mental and personal factors. These can be brought more 
directly under intelligent control and thus be modified by 
the work of church and school. What, then, happens to the 
individual along the way as he journeys toward adult- 
hood? 

INTERACTION WITH ENVIRONMENT 

From the time of birth the individual is not an isolated 
entity — living, as it were, in a vacuum — but is in constant 
interaction with his environment, through which activity 
his life is maintained and growth takes place. This is 
readily seen in the physical realm. Unless the baby's food- 
getting propensities are matched by food-giving activities 
in his environment and unless he is provided with enough 
warmth to keep the body at the proper temperature and 
enough sunshine to insure the proper deposit of calcium 
at the growing ends of the bones, he may perish or be de- 
formed even though his heredity has been of the very best. 
On the other hand, the most favorable environment cannot 
develop what is totally absent from the hereditary endow- 
ment. 



ADULTS IN THE MAKING 73 

In the realm of mental and social life something similar 
to this takes place. The individual, from the beginning, is 
in almost constant interaction with the group — the family, 
the school, the gang, the church, the business world, the 
political party — and what he is at any given time is largely 
the result of this interaction. Growth takes place through 
experience, and experience is always, in a sense, two-sided. 
It is never properly described merely in terms of the sur- 
roundings and conditions of life but is to be thought of, 
rather, as what happens to us plus our reaction to what 
happens. To some factors in our environment we may 
react positively, embracing them and building them into 
our personalities. To others, our reaction may be negative, 
driving us in rebellion toward their opposites. To still 
others, we may be largely indifferent, so that our per- 
sonalities are only slightly affected by them. Through all 
this process of interaction, we ourselves become changed. 
We come to have, we say, a basis in experience for meeting 
other similar factors or situations that may confront us 
in the future. A general answer to the question of this 
chapter, therefore, can readily be given. Adults become 
what they are because of the modification of their inherited 
constitution by the experiences life has brought. 

PERSONAL HISTORY 

But when we are trying to understand why some par- 
ticular personality is as it is, this general answer is not 
very illuminating. Information is needed as to the precise 
nature of the individual's experiences. And while every- 
thing that takes place in life possibly leaves some imprint 
upon us, in this kind of inquiry certain items of personal 
history are always of special interest. 

First, what do we know concerning the early social ad- 
justments of the person being studied? The facts as to 
these are always significant; for what happens to the in- 



74 THE UNDERSTANDING OP ADULT WAYS 

dividual in the early years of life, as he begins to discover 
himself in relation to his fellows, is of far-reaching conse- 
quence. Was he in infancy a normal member of a coopera- 
tive group or was he the constant center of attention? 
Were his faulty efforts to express himself met with censure 
or with thoughtful encouragement ? Did the treatment ac- 
corded him tend to strengthen his feeling of security or 
to bring about an attitude of fear and distrust? Was it 
controlled consistently in the light of moral values or was 
it ever changing with the varying moods of his elders? 
Imitation and suggestion are strong in the early years, and 
habits of thought and feeling may be established that will 
color all the rest of life. It is quite possible that the church 
committeeman who has to be periodically commended for 
his work was once a spoiled boy who pouted until he got 
his way or was extravagantly praised. 

This early social experience, since it tends to color perma- 
nently the attitude toward the self and toward life, may 
also profoundly affect the quality of one's religious expe- 
rience. Where the attitude of the child is one of fear and 
distrust, the individual, years afterwards, may find it a 
matter of very great difficulty to "rest in the Lord, and 
wait patiently for him." 

Another set of experiences that are of special importance 
in this connection are those belonging to that period of 
readjustment during which the child becomes the man — 
the period known as adolescence. Most persons, unless they 
are given unusually wise guidance throughout childhood 
and youth, face adjustment difficulties at this time, some 
of which are apt to leave their scars upon personality. 
The problems may arise from the more vivid sex conscious- 
ness that accompanies the maturing of the organs of re- 
production or from the necessary modification of religious 
beliefs demanded by the growing mind as it becomes aware 



ADULTS IN THE MAKING 75 

of ever -widening realms of truth. They may spring from 
the sense of disillusionment weighing upon the youth as 
he comes face to face with political corruption or battles 
against tremendous odds in the economic struggle. 

The manner in which these problems are met may in- 
fluence the behavior of the individual in many situations 
in later life, but such adolescent experiences need not 
yield only negative results. They may lead to a better 
organization of personality and a revitalizing of religious 
faith; they may set the stage for moral conversion or in- 
spire an unselfish life-work decision. Whatever their out- 
come in any particular instance, some knowledge of them 
will be likely to throw much light upon adult character. 

Many other items of personal history would have to 
be studied to make a complete analysis of the factors that 
enter into the making of adults. An individual's habitual 
condition of health will be likely to explain some of his 
traits, and if he has experienced critical illness the mental 
states accompanying the illness will need to be noted. 
Other matters of importance might be the character of his 
social and recreational interests through the years, his vo- 
cational choice and his attitude toward it, the quality of 
his family relationships, and particularly the nature of 
his early religious environment and of his own religious 
beliefs and practices. If the facts are to be had, it will be 
revealing, also, to learn of the situations in any of the 
areas of life — family, business, society, school, or church — 
which have given the person under consideration a strong 
feeling of successful achievement or have, perhaps, left 
him with a deadening sense of irretrievable failure. 

Past experiences like these help to explain how adults 
become what they are. They do not tell the whole story, 
for the process continues throughout life, and all of the 
later chapters of this book will throw light upon it. Much 
of what is there described, however, is the expression of 



76 THE UNDERSTANDING OF ADULT WAYS 

adult personality as it has already been formed through 
the experiences of childhood and youth. During these 
early years, through many responses to the situations of 
life, the individual tends to form his own pattern of re- 
sponse. In any given case, therefore, some knowledge of 
this pattern may help more toward our understanding of 
a man than a great mass of data concerning his personal 
history. How do these personality patterns take form? 

THE HABITUAL RESPONSE TO DIFFICULTY 

Let us consider first among the pattern-makers the in- 
dividual's habitual response to difficulty. How does he 
react in situations which block him from achieving his 
deepest desires'? Does he seek to retreat from the diffi- 
culty and to avoid facing it again or does he return to 
it deliberately and seek some satisfactory solution? 
Through many reactions of one sort or the other, each 
person develops a more or less permanent life-attitude 
either of evasiveness or of realistic attack upon his prob- 
lems. 

Many factors help to determine the kind of attitude 
that will be developed. Two of the most important of these 
are the strength of the individual's inner drives and his 
feeling of self-confidence or of self-distrust. When condi- 
tions prevent the following of some interest or thwart some 
strong desire, the self-reliant person may make some re- 
adjustment and then go forward as confidently as before. 
On the other hand, the person whose feeling toward him- 
self is more faltering may be crushed by the experience, 
retreating into the world of the imagination or seeking to 
gain his ends in unwholesome ways. Thus some adults 
tend constantly to draw away from life's stern realities, 
developing attitudes of evasion and retreat; while others, 
differently constituted, face frankly whatever life brings 
and grow in mastery. 



ADULTS IN THE MAKING 77 

Whichever of these responses is adopted, the adult's 
characteristic way of meeting difficulty will influence all 
that he is and does. This "barrier-adjustment-urge," as 
it has been called by Harry W. Hepner, is a primary fac- 
tor in determining the pattern of personality. We cannot 
understand our fellows unless we take it into account, par- 
ticularly if the habitual response is one of evasiveness. 
And where evasion has been carried to extremes, as in the 
case of the college graduate who was critical of everybody 
except himself, it will not be difficult to detect, nor shall we 
have to look far to trace its disastrous results. 2 

THE ROUTINE OF ADULT LIFE 

But there are other pattern-makers which also need to be 
studied if we are to understand how men and women be- 
come the kinds of people we meet — or, if you will, the 
kinds of people we are ! And so far as our mature years 
are concerned, one of the most irresistible of these is the 
routine of adult life. 

The conditions of modern life give extreme power to the 
forces that tend to make us creatures of habit and custom. 
The desire for economic security, as we have already seen, 
often impels the young adult to modify his idealism or his 
individuality so as to fit himself into the system. As life 
goes on, the process continues, for certain ways of acting 
are approved by the group in which the adult's life is 
thrown. He must conform to the pattern of the good citi- 
zen, the good neighbor, the good business executive, the 
good churchman, the good club member, the "good sport." 

Again, he may be constrained to become a regular union 
man or an open shop advocate, a fundamentalist or a mod- 
ernist, a Republican or a Democrat, a member of this so- 
cial clique or that religious sect. If he varies too far from 

2 A discussion of some of the unwholesome effects of evasion will be 
found in Chapter Six. 



78 THE UNDERSTANDING OF ADULT WAYS 

the pattern approved by the group — unless he has unusual 
abilities that force his acceptance despite his idiosyncrasies 
— he will find suspicion toward himself hard to avoid and 
success almost impossible to attain. Thus the necessities 
of life drive the adult, almost irresistibly, toward certain 
standardized ways of acting, feeling, or thinking; and in 
many areas, at least, his character becomes thoroughly con- 
ventionalized. 

One of the most rigid molds into which personality is 
forced is that of the occupation followed. Each occupation 
makes its characteristic demands upon those who follow 
it and tends to build in them its own sets of habits, atti- 
tudes, and interests. The daily routine cannot but affect 
the mental outlook, as it centers attention upon some of 
life 's values largely to the exclusion of others. The college 
teacher who, day after day, spends his energies in drilling 
students in the finer accents of some foreign tongue is 
bound to see life differently from, let us say, the engineer 
who builds a Boulder Dam or the politician who is deter- 
mined to win the popular vote. Bogardus has suggested 
that two persons, similarly endowed by nature but hav- 
ing chosen different occupations (for example, one in the 
money -making class, the other, a service occupation), 
might both become successful and yet at the end of twenty 
years have ' ' drifted so far apart in occupational and social 
attitudes as to have almost nothing in common." 3 The 
secretary, the teacher, the worker in industry, the minister, 
the nurse, the housewife, the parent, the merchant, the 
doctor, the lawyer, the farmer, the banker — each word sug- 
gests certain habitual ways of acting by which persons 
make a living and into which personality tends to become 
more or less crystallized. 

a E. S. Bogardus, "The Occupational Attitude," Journal of Applied 
Sociology, 1924, p. 172. 



ADULTS IN THE MAKING 79 

GOOD AND BAD IN HABIT SYSTEMS 

Is this reduction of life to systems of habits wholly bad ? 
Not at all. Where habit serves the purposes of free per- 
sons it makes for economy of effort and really gives greater 
freedom. The writer cannot express himself freely until 
he has attained skill in the use of words. The musician is 
not free to make his art creative until he has mastered the 
techniques involved in the use of his instrument. Effi- 
ciency in any occupation requires that many of its simpler 
activities be reduced to habit, so that they are, as we say, 
"second nature." But under the conditions of modern 
life there is always the danger that the pattern-making 
will be pushed to such extremes that personality is all but 
lost. Some men become so completely dominated by the 
attitudes and habits that belong to their occupations that 
they are little more than machines, functioning fairly 
smoothly in their restricted realms but incapable of being 
thrilled by an oratorio, of cultivating a new friendship, of 
responding generously to the call of need, or of pursuing to 
the end some independent line of thought or action. Their 
work-habits have become their masters. 

And it is not difficult to see how such influences may 
reach to the very core of personality. Most men, and a 
great many women, spend the major part of their energies 
in the realm of economic activity and, as Professor Coe has 
pointed out, it is in the sphere of our main efforts and 
struggles that we gain our "deepest impressions as to the 
nature of reality." Our philosophy of life — our concept 
of the underlying nature of things — is thus apt to be 
largely determined by our work. 

The forcing of life into accepted molds, either by occu- 
pational demands or by other social forces, is a major fac- 
tor in making adults into the kinds of persons we meet. 
Though routine may give to personality a kind of unity 



80 THE UNDERSTANDING OF ADULT WAYS 

which may make it appear to function with smoothness and 
efficiency, the thoughtful observer will not fail to see that 
a man's reactions may have settled into a machine-like 
fixity and that the pattern of his personality may be far 
too largely one of conformity. 

MAINTAINING PERSONAL FREEDOM 

Is there, then, no unifying principle for the free man? 
By all means. The pattern-maker for the free personality 
is a commanding purpose. That which gives genuine in- 
tegration and unity on a personal rather than a mechani- 
cal basis is the intense pursuit of self -chosen purposes that 
are high enough to challenge our best, harmonious enough 
to give us integrity, and broad enough to make for the 
common good. Some forms of work clearly provide more 
scope for free activity than others, but in following any 
occupation, we shall maintain ourselves as persons only 
as we face our work realistically and learn to find per- 
sonal satisfaction in its activities. Where conditions seem 
to make this impossible and a change of occupation is out 
of the question, the only wise alternative is the discovery 
of wholesome and constructive avenues of avocational in- 
terest. 

But whatever our situation, personal freedom means that 
we are able to take a critical attitude toward the patterns 
our world would impose upon us, even though we may 
choose to conform to them. It means that, at times, we 
stand off from these requirements, recognize that they are 
not ultimate or absolute, face up to reality, and then make 
our choices either within or, if necessary, outside the limits 
which they set. "One becomes a person," to quote again 
from Professor Coe, "by acting in the discriminating man- 
ner of persons. That is, I do not let experience merely 
come to me or flow through me; I inspect it ... . putting 
upon it my very own stamp of meaning, which involves 



ADULTS IN THE MAKING 81 

more or less of assent or dissent, approval and disapproval, 
and becoming actively 'for' or 'against.' My thinking 
must be my own thinking, my convictions must be my own, 
my valuations and choices must be mine." 4 

Custom and tradition cannot, of course, be ignored. If 
we are to live happily, many of the demands of our world 
must be met. But somewhere in life, adults, no less than 
others, need opportunity to satisfy deep desires and to 
give free expression to their choices. By this means they 
will maintain themselves as persons. And personality will 
become both strong and Christian as this self-activity and 
choice are exercised in the loyal pursuit of life's high 
values, carried on in the spirit and way of Christ. 

In the making of adults, therefore, a factor of supreme 
importance is the quality of the religious life. The trans- 
formation of personality has often begun with a whole- 
hearted response to the call of Christ, and every phase 
of our Christian living — our worship, giving, church work, 
study, moral endeavor, or social service — will become a 
means of growth when what is done is the result of our 
own thinking, valuing, and purposing. 

The religion of adults who are committed to the way of 
Christ should consist largely of efforts to discover what 
their commitment means in terms of the life of today and 
of persistent endeavor, sustained by trust in God, to bring 
all of life into accord with the Christian ideal. If in a 
larger number of instances adult religion were actually 
of this sort, many more adults would become what God 
intended them to be : free, effective, Christlike personali- 
ties. 

SOURCE MATERIAL 

1. Personality: The whole and the parts. — "That the whole is 
equal to the sum of its parts is not even admitted by the geometer 
when he speaks candidly. He knows, as every one of us knows, who 

4 George A. Coe, What Is Christian Education? pp. 95-9 6. Charles 
Scribner's Sons, New York. 



82 THE UNDERSTANDING OP ADULT WATS 

mends a broken plate, that the way in which the parts are put to- 
gether is the essence of the totality. When you add up a column 
of figures, it makes no difference in which order you put the 
numbers. But in putting bits of stained glass together to make 
a window, or lines to make a di awing, the problem of creating some- 
thing is only in small part a problem in summation; it is almost 
entirely a problem of organization. The stained-glass-window anal- 
ogy will, in fact, serve us well for a consideration of the Gestalt 
psychology." (Murphy and Jensen, Approaches to Personality. 
Coward-McCann, Inc., New York, 1932.) The Gestalt psychology 
especially emphasizes this "form" or "pattern." idea, but it is rec- 
ognized in some degree by all psychologists. 

2. The economic order as educator. — "The economic order is a 
chief sphere, if not the chief one, for the realization of personal 
selves. This is the only coherent meaning that we can give to it. 
Therefore, whenever we find it turning out undeveloped, depressed, 
or distorted personalities, they must not be taken as by-products or 
incidents; they are the main concern, and therefore the system is 
here sick and self-defeating. To say that we are engaged in making 
goods and not men is in any case simply not so. We actually do 
make men of one sort or another in all our sowing and reaping, 
mining and smelting, manufacture, commerce and finance. For bet- 
ter or for worse this is so; there is no escaping it." (George A. 
Coe, The Motives of Men, p. 137. Charles Scribner's Sons, New 
York, 1928.) 

3. Maintaining our freedom. — "Everything which determines us 
can be organized into a life with enough freedom to be responsible. 
To live up to the fact of this responsibibty is the main battle of 
life. We seem to be more free to do it in the morning when we 
are fresh than we are towards night when we are tired and more 
at the mercy of nagging agitations. Our freedom 'runs down' 
if we do not have a care. To keep free so that our life is less 
and less enslaved by what the world does to us is the final duty of 
all. Our finest example of this freedom is in Christ, who could 
say, after the world had done its worst to determine his career — 
'In the world ye shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I 
have overcome the world.' " (Eobert E. Wicks, The 'Reason for 
Living, p. 146. Charles Scribner's Sons, New York, 1934.) 

QUESTIONS FOR THE READER 

1. Assume two persons (let us say, identical twins) to have pre- 
cisely the same inherited traits, would you expect their adult per- 
sonalities to be identical? Why? Why not? 

2. In what sense can it be truly said that "All men are created 
free and equal"? Why can it also be said that "In the race of 
life no two persons start from exactly the same place"? What 



ADULTS IN THE MAKING 83 

attitude should one take toward his own hereditary limitations? 
Toward those of others? 

3. Do you generally respond to difficulties by "direct-attack" or 
by evasion and retreat? If by the latter, why not develop the 
wholesome "habit of using direct-attack methods with barriers"? 

4. After picturing the adults he meets in his consulting room 
as despondent, sardonic, nervous and hyper-sensitive, indolent and 
discouraged, or arrogant and conceited, a practicing psychologist 
raises the question as to what marring influences have so played 
upon the wholesomeness of childhood as to bring them to this state. 
Think through, as fully as possible, your own answer to this question. 

5. Among your friends and acquaintances, can you think of 
adults: (a) who have allowed themselves to be completely dominated 
by the attitudes and habits of their work; (&) who have found 
within their occupations opportunities for self-activity and choice; 
(c) who resist the mechanizing forces by fresh and interesting ac- 
tivities outside their work? What effects do you think the dif- 
ferent ways of responding to routine have had on the personalities 
concerned ? 

6. How may we act "in the discriminating manner of persons"? 

7. What does Christianity have to offer as "a purpose worth 
living for ' ' ? 

QUESTIONS FOR GEOUP DISCUSSION 

1. Numbers 1, 2, 4, 6, and 7 of the above questions would be 
suitable for group discussion. 

2. Compare Source Material No. 2 with the following quotation 
from a recent popular psychological work : ' ' Man is still the poten- 
tial creator rather than the victim of his creations. He is a creature 
of free-will and untold possibilities, not the slave of environment. 
His capabilities are limited not so much by heredity or poverty as 
by his own vision of himself." (Henry C. Link, The Rediscovery 
of Man, p. 12. Copyright 193 S. Used by permission of Macmillan 
Company, publishers.) Are these statements in conflict? If you 
think they are, which statement is correct? Why? If you think 
they are not, what are the grounds for your answer? 

REPORTS AND INVESTIGATIONS 

1. Write a brief account of the factors helping to determine 
your own personality or that of some adult acquaintance: early 
environment, attitudes of parents, relations with other members of 
the family, adolescent difficulties, adjustments to "barriers," rec- 
reational interests, vocational choice, religious beliefs and practices, 
etc. 

2. Report on opportunities in your church program for adults to 
do their own thinking, valuing, and purposing. 



How can we keep up the steady and eager devotion 
necessary to maintain Christian personality? As 
the years pass, men and women often find that their 
purposes become less impelling, and they experience 
a cooling of their devotion. Life may tend to lose 
its zest, and someone who has been an enthusiastic 
worker in the church may drop out and seemingly 
lose all interest. Even where there is no thought 
of breaking with the church, many persons in middle 
life experience marked changes in the motivation of 
their religious activities. Not a few are disturbed by 
the general diminution of life's driving power. 
€| What is it that keeps one enthusiastic about life — 
all of it or any part of it? Why are some men in- 
terested and active in the program of the church, 
while others with equal opportunity and ability are 
only nominal members? Why is this person active 
today and indifferent tomorrow? Why does this 
woman spend her energies in humanitarian service, 
while her sister seems to be concerned only with 
wearing fine clothes and seeking social recognition? 
Why does this man in middle age continue to read 
and to grow in religious insight and understanding, 
while his fellow class-member, with perhaps equal 
intelligence, has stopped reading long ago? <J The 
answers to these questions — eliminating from con- 
sideration such factors as physical health and native 
vigor — can never be properly given in terms of pure 
reason; they must be found in the deeper levels of 
human wants and desires, the drives that constitute 
the motive power of life. And nothing can help us 
more in our effort to understand adults than some 
knowledge of how this power functions. What are 
the motives that keep adults going? 



CHAPTER FIVE 



H, 



THE MOTIVES OF ADULTS 

What Motives Keep Adults Going? 



.UMAN BEINGS ARE SO INCESSANTLY ACTIVE THAT WE TAKE 

this activity for granted and seldom stop to think about 
it. But if we call to mind the strange variety of actions — 
good and bad, wise and foolish, pleasing and painful — that 
make up the panorama of human conduct and then raise 
the question as to why men and women do the things they 
do, it soon becomes apparent that the motivation of adult 
behavior permits of no simple explanation. It will not 
suffice merely to accept the reasons that men and women 
may offer in explanation of their acts. These are some- 
times little more than afterthoughts. And even when these 
reasons are definitely in mind before the action is taken, 
they are often an effort to find justification for doing what 
they already feel prompted to do. A man of very modest 
means may purchase a high-priced automobile, saying that 
he does so because he needs a reliable car, but one of his 
most impelling motives may be the desire to demonstrate 
his superiority over his next-door neighbor or his business 
rival. A minister may take the position of extreme pacifism 
because, as he says, it is taught in the Scriptures, or a lay- 
man the position of militarism because of some principle 
of national defense, when in each case the real impulsion 
may be the desire to be thought well of by some group 
whose approval is felt to be necessary or whose censure is 
feared. Reasons are so seldom absolute. We have our pref- 
erences among them, being appealed to by one, while an- 
other leaves us unmoved. So it is not difficult for us to see 
working in and through them some deeper impulsions. A 

85 



86 THE UNDERSTANDING OP ADULT WAYS 

motive is an inward condition that incites us to action; and 
while some disciplined minds may be moved largely by 
reason — and all of us at times be prompted by it — the 
motivation of much of our human behavior lies, rather, in 
the realm of our more fundamental needs, emotions, or 
organic states. 

To understand the motivation of adults, then, we must 
begin with those basic urges and drives that are a part of 
man's inherited constitution. There is no universal agree- 
ment among psychologists as to the number or the nature 
of these drives, but all agree in recognizing the dynamic 
character of human nature. By original endowment, man 
is active, not passive; from the beginning of life, human 
beings show characteristic responses to stimuli, cravings 
that demand satisfaction, or tensions that must find release. 
Although these are greatly modified throughout life and 
may be overlaid by systems of habits that disguise them, 
they nevertheless underlie a great deal of adult motivation 
and will sometimes be found not very far from the surface. 1 

THE BASIC HUMAN DRIVES 

What, then, are some of these characteristic human 
drives? Or if the term "drive" carries too much of the 
suggestion of a push-f rom-behind instead of a pull-from-in- 
front, what are some of the basic desires and wants that 
underlie adult behavior? 

One of the most obvious facts about human motivation 
is that healthy human beings desire to be active: to do 

1 In seeking- to describe this dynamic character of human nature, 
psychologists have used a variety of terms. Impulses and reflexes, 
instincts and native tendencies, urges and drives, desires and wishes, 
wants and cravings, tensions leading to goal-activities — all these have 
been used, and each suggests a somewhat different view of native en- 
dowment. For our present purpose we do not need to enter a discus- 
sion of the respective merits of these views. It should be noted, how- 
ever, that the trend of psychological thinking is away from any at- 
tempt to make rigid lists or scientific classifications of this kind of 
behavior and toward more general agreement that our human drives 
are, from the beginning, modified by our experience. As we come to 
know them, they are, we may be sure, rooted both in original nature 
and in society. 



THE MOTIVES OF ADULTS 87 

and to feel, to have experience, to know themselves to be 
the causes of some activity in the outer world, and to reach 
out to gain new experience. It is only when the store of 
natural energy has been depleted by ill health, or the de- 
sire for new experience has been inhibited by fears, that 
men and women become satisfied with a more or less passive 
existence. But even then, the "wish to be a cause," if 
not manifest, may lurk near the surface and at times come 
to expression in quite unconventional ways. While adults, 
as they grow older, find increasing satisfaction in the old 
and familiar, it is perhaps generally the weight of tradition 
and precedent — the thought of what is expected of them — 
rather than anything more fundamental that keeps them 
from responding to the lure of novelty. 

The desire for security and self-protection is another 
strong impulsion throughout most of life. It helps to 
explain much of the conduct of the child in his attempts to 
avoid punishment or gain approval, of the youth in his 
ethical readjustments as he begins to participate in the 
economic struggle, and of the man of advanced years as he 
holds desperately to a position in which he is no longer 
competent but which is his only means of livelihood. Mixed 
with the desire to satisfy personal ambitions and gain 
merely selfish ends, the desire for security is no doubt one 
of the deeper motives of both capitalist and laborer in the 
never-ceasing industrial conflict. 

Of all our human drives, the appetite for sex has been 
the most widely sinned against. Exalted to the place of 
primary importance, it has been held to be the driving 
force of almost all human conduct; thrust aside as of only 
biological interest, its significance for normal living and 
wholesome life-attitudes has often been entirely overlooked. 
It is impossible to understand adult behavior without con- 
sidering motives that have some relation to sex, but these 
must not be thought of as excluding other drives, nor must 



88 THE UNDERSTANDING OF ADULT WAYS 

they be limited to the primary sex impulses. They will in- 
clude, among other things, the desire for sympathetic re- 
sponse, which is a deeply felt need of most men and women 
though they may succeed in keeping it hidden from the 
casual observer. Even those adults who outwardly are the 
most reserved and austere will often be found to crave 
tender response and intimacy. Thus, James Rathbone 
Oliver, who has had unique opportunities to know the inner 
life of everyday people, remarks that there are few more 
bitter agonies of the spirit than that of the married man 
whose life-partner has been taken by death, when he sud- 
denly awakens to the loss of those intimacies which years 
of companionship have brought, when he realizes that the 
hands that once soothed the lines of worry out of his face 
will never, in this life, touch him again. 2 

But other wants, also, lie deep in human nature; and 
men and women are often impelled to aggressive action in 
the outer world by the desire for power and superiority. 
It is this drive which, along with social feeling, is so greatly 
emphasized by the psychologist Alfred Adler and which, he 
believes, underlies the activity and colors the attitudes of 
every individual in all human striving. However that may 
be, the craving for some kind of superiority — at times re- 
fined almost beyond recognition, at other times crude and 
obvious — will be found to influence a vast amount of adult 
conduct. The individual seems to find it necessary to 
demonstrate his own worth — to himself as much as to 
others — and this he can do best by superior attainments, 
possessions, or prestige, or by the wielding of power. Of 
course, this desire need not express itself in anti-social 
forms that degrade the personality of others; it may be 
directed into wholesome social channels and come to expres- 
sion in the work of the artist, the civic leader, or the in- 
dustrialist. But the presence of this drive must be recog- 

2 See The Ordinary Difficulties of Everyday People, p. 218. 



THE MOTIVES OP ADULTS 89 

nized if we are to understand ourselves or our fellows. 
How necessary this is, becomes immediately apparent when 
we reflect upon the motivation of a large part of the busi- 
ness and political world. 

If man were not equipped with other appetites besides 
the thirst for power, there would no doubt be many more 
crude expressions of that ego-mania which, given the op- 
portunity, makes dictators and tyrants. But other urges 
modify this one, and, among these, the craving for fellow- 
ship, for recognition and social approval, is particularly 
significant. From the time when, as a little child, the in- 
dividual delights in the praise of parents to the days of the 
last illness when the aged are made to feel a continuing 
sense of worth by reason of friendly visits and gifts of 
flowers, the desire to be liked is an important factor in hu- 
man motivation. True, there should be some emancipation 
from the dominance of this desire as ethical maturity is 
approached and our decisions come to be more and more 
guided by principles and by thought of more ultimate 
consequences than immediate social approval; but even the 
most heroic pioneers of the spirit, including the Man of 
Galilee, have yearned for human fellowship. And it is 
unquestionably true of the great majority of men and 
women that, as Myerson says, they "expand under sym- 
pathy and contract under criticism." 3 They cannot ade- 
quately realize themselves without an approving group. 

For life to be truly satisfying, these drives must find 
expression in some form. Men must have worthful and 
varied experiences. They must feel secure in material or 
spiritual possessions. They seek the release from tension 
that results from intimate response. They need to ex- 
perience the power of achievement and to find their places 
in an approving group. If a harsh environment or some 

3 A. Myerson, Foundations of Personality, p. 218. Little, Brown & 
Co., publishers, Boston. 



90 THE UNDERSTANDING OF ADULT WAYS 

inherited weakness makes these things difficult or impos- 
sible of attainment, personality tends to develop peculiar 
twists or to become definitely abnormal — and life loses its 
zest. 

On the other hand, it is easy to discern the working of 
these drives in much of our human striving at work or at 
play, in home, church, or community. They do not furnish 
the full explanation of adult motives, however, because as 
life goes on, they are greatly modified, and other impul- 
sions are developed. 

THE DEVELOPMENT OE INTERESTS 

Light is thrown upon the nature of motivation by con- 
sidering, also, the way in which interest adds zest to our 
actions. Everyone recognizes that where interest is high 
activity may be sustained for long periods of time even 
in spite of considerable fatigue and that whether a particu- 
lar task is taken up with zeal or with apathy depends in 
large measure upon the degree of interest we have in it. 
But it is not always so easy to understand just why our 
interests come to be what they are. How does it come 
about that John Brown is so keenly interested in golf, while 
his neighbor is an enthusiastic angler, and his friend across 
the street cares for his flower garden with the passion of a 
lover ? 

It seems rather clear that in the beginning our interests 
are closely related to our original nature — either to the 
basic desires we have been discussing in this chapter or 
to other more specific likes and dislikes that are also inborn. 
Probably some people are born with propensities that make 
them "naturally" have a greater liking, let us say, for 
things than for people, while it is the nature of others 
to be irresistibly drawn toward their fellows. Similarly, 
other likes and dislikes may be a part of our native equip- 
ment, and these, with the basic drives, will become im- 



THE MOTIVES OP ADULTS 91 

portant factors in determining what experiences in early- 
life bring us the most satisfaction. According to the op- 
portunities furnished by our environment, then, certain 
trends of interest may early be established. And since we 
tend to select from our surroundings the things that appeal 
to us and to pay attention to what interests us, by the time 
we reach adulthood we may have grown very far apart 
in our developed interests. 

Of more concern to the church leader than the question 
of how these interests arise, however, is an inquiry into 
their present character; for an educational approach to 
adults, no less than to any other age group, will recognize 
their interests as the most promising starting point. Much 
fruitless energy has been expended in trying to make men 
and women interested in things that did not appeal to 
them, when the same amount of effort used to discover their 
real interests and to develop, modify, and enrich them 
would have yielded far greater results. 

What, then, are adults interested in? Because interests 
are specific, varying greatly from person to person, the 
only answer of much value is one that is made on the 
basis of some particular adult group — the group, let us 
say, in which we are working in the church. General 
studies may have suggestive value, but nothing can take 
the place of first-hand knowledge of the men and women 
with whom we have to do. And without this knowledge, 
studies of adult interests may even prove misleading. 

DIFFERENCES IN ADULT INTERESTS 

A counselor of young women, for example, may learn 
that unmarried women (under 31 years of age) in Chicago 
are still interested in marriage and men friends; that busi- 
ness life, though a necessary activity, ranks low in genuine 
interest; and that religion and church relations are seldom 



92 THE UNDERSTANDING OP ADULT WAYS 

mentioned as interest centers; 4 but this may not properly 
characterize the counselor's own group. 

A teacher of a men 's class may gain some understanding 
of the major fields of human concern from a study which 
analyzes 40,000 topics treated in a widely-read magazine 
over a period of thirty-five years and shows the greatest 
amount of interest centering in government and interna- 
tional affairs, and the least in science and history; 5 yet in 
his own class, scientific or historical interest may be high. 

A quarterly assigned for use with a group of young 
adults may assume that they will be interested in con- 
troversial theological questions or in problems of world 
relations; but a leader with whom they feel free to express 
themselves may easily discover that their chief concern is in 
"the things they are up against every day." This was true 
of the young adults in a Columbus, Ohio, church where 
Jessie A. Charters, over a period of five years, carried on 
her interesting experiment in adult education. The initial 
interests of the group, revealed by the first informal discus- 
sion, centered in such questions as these : ' ' Should we put 
money into the beggar's cup on the street? How should 
we vote when we do not know anything about the candi- 
dates? Should we buy foreign goods when our own work- 
ers are unemployed ? Should we buy cheap goods when we 
know they are cheap because they are sweatshop products? 
Should a man risk his job to join a labor union when his 
wife is afraid for him to join because they have children 
and he will probably have to go on strike ? ' ' 6 

A first-hand study of the interests of the men and women 
in our own group is, therefore, of primary importance if 

4 R. S. Cavan, Interests of Business G4rls. Religious Education 
Monogram No. 3, 1929. 

5 P. I* Palmer, Major Fields of Human Concern. University of Chi- 
cago, 1931. 

6 Jessie B. Charters, Young Adults and the Church, p. 49. Copy- 
right, 193 6. Used by permission of Abingdon-Cokesbury Press, pub- 
lishers. 



THE MOTIVES OF ADULTS 93 

we would understand the things they do or enlist them 
actively in the enterprises of church or school. 

HOW INTERESTS CHANGE 

Does this mean, then, that adult interests have to remain 
as they are? Not at all. Interests may be developed; they 
may be modified and enriched ; they may urge us on to new 
fields far removed from those into which we were led by 
our initial quest. What was at first perhaps little more 
than a desire for novelty or for social approval may lead 
to a richly-rewarding experience and the development of a 
permanent life-interest. 

A professional man, well advanced in years, attended the 
men's club of the church purely for the opportunity of fel- 
lowship in a friendly group. His acceptance of a com- 
mittee assignment soon led him into other church activities 
which he carried out conscientiously. In the course of a 
relatively short time, he became one of the "most in- 
terested ' ' members of the church and was an effective visi- 
tor in the pre-E aster church visitation. 

A woman who had had few educational opportunities in 
her youth was sometimes thrown with a group of adults 
whose cultural advantages had been much greater. With 
little more than a desire to share in the conversation of her 
associates, she began reading non-fiction. She is now ex- 
ceptionally well informed and genuinely interested in the 
fields of philosophy and grand opera! 

A church member, with some liking for children but no 
specia] interest in teaching, was asked to assist for a few 
Sundays in the primary department of a city church. 
Though with some trepidation, she undertook the task be- 
cause of friendship for the one making the request. Some 
features of the work made a strong appeal to her, while 
others were burdensome; but in the reading of books and 
magazines, she found the guidance she needed and the 



94 THE UNDERSTANDING OP ADULT WAYS 

vision of rich possibilities of service. Her interest grew 
steadily, She became, in turn, a regular teacher, the prin- 
cipal of the department, a teacher of leadership -training 
classes, a writer, and a widely-sought counselor of parents 
and teachers of children. 

Innumerable cases might be given of men and women 
who in the adult years have developed new interests in 
such realms as art, religion, literature, cabinet-making, 
music, story-writing, dramatics, short-wave radio communi- 
cation, economics, gardening, philanthrophy, an under- 
graduate college course, or a doctorate in philosophy. Only 
a beginning has yet been made in exploring the fields for 
the development of adult interest, and it would seem that 
the church should have a large share in opening up their 
rich possibilities. That there is, to begin with, more in- 
terest in the church than is commonly supposed, is revealed 
in a recent study of the leisure-time activities of adults in 
the state of Missouri. In this section of the United States, 
at least, the "optimum age for church attendance is fifty- 
five to sixty-four years, ' ' and nearly twice as many adults 
attend church frequently as attend the movies; while 
lodges, clubs, dances, lectures, concerts, and card parties 
rank very much lower. Since these facts were gathered 
"through personal interviews with one out of every 500 
adults selected at random throughout the state," they 
should give an exceptionally reliable account of how adults 
spend their time. 7 

THE RELATION OF INTERESTS TO MOTIVES 

What is the relation of interests to motives ? Their con- 
nection is most easily seen in the case of those interests 
which have become permanent and deep by being linked 
with our life purposes. Where this has taken place, they 

'Eugene S. Briggs, "How Do Adults Spend Their Time?" World 
Call, Feb., 1938, p. 16. 



THE MOTIVES OP ADULTS 95 

are a part of our very selfhood, and our activity in pursuit 
of them has much the same kind of impulsion as the basic 
urges of our common human nature. "Whatever one is 
interested in," says John Dewey, "is so far a constituent 
of the self, whether it be collecting postage stamps, or pic- 
tures, making money or friends, attending first nights at 
the theater, studying electrical phenomena, or whatever. 
Whether one obtains satisfaction by assisting friends, or 
by beating competitors at whatever cost, the interest of the 
self is involved. ' ' 8 This does not mean, let us be clear, that 
the course pursued is necessarily selfish — it may be highly 
altruistic — but whatever its character, it is one in which the 
self is deeply concerned. And what is of genuine interest 
to the self easily becomes a motive for action. 

We are now in a position to come to a better understand- 
ing of the character of adult motivation. The fundamental 
drives never appear "in the raw" in adult behavior be- 
cause, through the years, they have been modified, har- 
monized, and related to the interests and purposes of the 
self. When they appear as adult motives, they are, there- 
fore, "reconstructed drives." The self -protective urge, 
which once gave rise to feelings of satisfaction in the 
shelter of the parental roof, may now lead to a conservative 
business policy that is calculated to insure the security of 
self and family; what was "originally" a biological im- 
pulse — the sex drive- — may have come to be chiefly a spirit- 
ual partnership between a man and a woman, grounded 
in mutual respect and bringing enrichment to the per- 
sonalities of both. And even the desire for power, which 
is sometimes regarded as being the cause of most of our 
social and economic troubles, may be so "worked over" 
that instead of showing itself in pugnacity and destruc- 

8 Dewey and Tufts, Ethics, Revised 1932 Edition, p. 327. Henry Holt 
& Co., publishers, New York. 



96 THE UNDERSTANDING OP ADULT WAYS 

tiveness it has become the desire for significance and worth 
and is manifest in sacrificial devotion to some great hu- 
manitarian cause. 

MOTIVES THAT ARE HALF HIDDEN 

In seeking to understand either ourselves or our neigh- 
bors, we must remember that it is possible in certain situa- 
tions for us to be scarcely aware, or perhaps wholly un- 
aware, of the true character of the motives that impel us to 
act as we do. Recall the man of modest means, mentioned 
at the beginning of this chapter, who decided to purchase 
a high-priced automobile on the ground that he needed a 
reliable car. Was he aware of the extent to which the 
desire for superiority over his neighbor entered into his 
motivation ? Possibly not. But this desire may in reality 
have been a major factor in his decision. If it was, that 
would not mean that he was deficient in intelligence or 
character but rather that he was moved by some deeper 
impulsion than the reasons by which he explained his 
action. That deacon of unimpressive personality who 
serves the church with such unabated vigor may be none 
the less conscientious because he is driven to do so largely 
by the hunger for recognition and social approval. The 
preacher or the soloist may not be lacking in piety and 
devotion to the gospel or to music because some elements 
of the desire for self-display are detectable in their per- 
formance. The critic of a certain policy in church or 
political group may argue his case with keen logic, though 
the vigor of his attack is due, in part, to his own hurt pride 
over the success of a course which he has opposed. 

This kind of more or less unconscious motivation is not 
uncommon in everyday life; and if we are willing to face 
realities, it is very probable that we shall detect some of it 
in our own behavior. The frank acceptance of ourselves, 
with conscious recognition of these "lower" impulses, 



THE MOTIVES OP ADULTS 97 

tends to release us from their domination and to open up 
the way for wholesome self-realization and the strengthen- 
ing of the higher motives. 

THE DESIRE FOR SELF-REALIZATION 

In the process of transforming our own motives, as well 
as in any constructive leadership or guidance of our fel- 
lows, we shall lack an essential clue to successful endeavor 
unless we recognize the fact that self-realization is a basic 
and universal need of men and women. Unless the self 
can feel its own significance and worth, high achievement 
will be impossible, and other motives will remain largely 
at the impulsive level. There is an intimate relation be- 
tween self-realization and the wholesome self-respect that 
is necessary for strong character, so that the desire to 
realize one's self may be said to be the central drive of the 
normal personality. "In human experience," writes a 
keen observer of the life of man, "the motive of being a 
personal self among personal selves is in all and through 
all." 9 "Man has as his prime pleasure," a physician de- 
clares, ' ' the feeling of worth and growth of his personality, 
and as his worst hurt the feeling of decay and inferiority 
of that personality." 10 "In one form or another," writes 
a practicing psychologist, ' ' this primary impulse lies at the 
center of us all, and no expression of our lives, be it love, 
achievement, or what you will, is intelligible until we 
recognize it." 11 

This "desire to be a person" must be understood and 

used by all who would deal wisely with adults or help them 

toward wholesome growth. It may be an exaggeration to 

; say that the sweetest word in the English language for any 

"George A. Coe, The Motives of Men, p. 146. Charles Scribner's 
Sons, New York. 

10 Myerson, Foundations of Personality, p. 218. Little, Brown & Co. 

"David Seabury, Growing Into Life, p. 145. Liveright Publishing 
Corporation, New York. 



98 THE UNDERSTANDING OF ADULT WAYS 

man is his own name, 12 but it is certainly true that in deal- 
ing with people we must constantly appeal to the sense of 
personal worth. 

But there is another human need, equally impelling in 
our effort to maintain ourselves as persons and even more 
necessary to the development of the higher motives — the 
need of some commanding object to which we can give our- 
selves unreservedly; the need, we may say, for self -dedica- 
tion. 

THE NEED FOR SELF-DEDICATION 

The failure of some writers to recognize this motive in 
explaining the actions of man may be accounted for by 
too great a dependence upon animal, as distinct from hu- 
man, psychology or by too easy a surrender to the cynicism 
which characterizes not a little of our modern thought. 
But even when effort is made to view human nature in a 
strictly scientific way, at least the roots of this motive can 
be discerned. Man does not seek merely to maintain his 
individuality; he is impelled also, as two eminent psycholo- 
gists have declared, by the ' ' desire ' to belong. ' ' ' He does 
not want to be isolated in his uniqueness; he desires to out- 
grow himself. His "I" must have some relation to a 
"Thou." In the end, he is irresistibly led "in the direc- 
tion of the Universe, of the Unknown, of the Divine. ' ' 13 

When this "desire to belong" is chastened and spirit- 
ualized, it becomes the highest motive from which men can 
act — devotion to great ends; the whole-hearted giving of 
themselves to unselfish purposes. High motivation of this 
kind may be found in persons of humble station as well as 
in men and women of renown, in the fruitful service of a 
church janitor and the sacrificial life of the missionary. 
And the more adults share in such unselfish enterprises, 

"See How to Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie, 
p. 146. 

"Dodge and Kahn, The Craving for Superiority, pp. 38-40, sum- 
marized. Tale University Press, 1931. 



THE MOTIVES OF ADULTS 99 

keeping their attention on outcomes rather than upon their 
own feelings, the more truly can it be said that their 
motives are the goals toward which they strive. They be- 
come devoted to scientific discovery, the alleviation of hu- 
man suffering, the spiritual undergirding or reconstruction 
of society, the building of the Kingdom of God. 

It is especially the business of the church to cultivate 
this kind of motivation, for life that is thus inspired is a 
large part of true religion. Yet conventional Christianity 
has often failed to arouse this response, while such move- 
ments as communism, by a definite program and an appeal 
to sacrifice, have often been able to secure it in a marked 
degree. The story is told of a young Communist woman, 
facing death in China, who replied to the commiseration 
offered her: "Don't pity me. I am dying for a cause. 
What are you living for?" 

Christianity at its best, however, has challenged and 
has secured the highest devotion from men and women in 
all walks of life. It has encouraged them in unselfish 
pursuits and by giving them a purpose to live for has em- 
powered their personalities. The central motive of Jesus 
was the desire to do the will of God, and many of his fol- 
lowers have found that this purpose, loyally pursued, has 
unified life and given added power for every high endeavor. 

By such high devotion our lesser impulsions become pure. 
' ' The direction of a motive to a pure end, ' ' writes Weather- 
head, "purifies the motive, even if its recognized source 
or origin is instinctive, selfish, or unworthy." 14 We are 
lured on by the goal that is set before us; but we are none- 
theless aware of the fact that our effort to achieve it brings 
our deepest satisfaction. Our personalities are not di- 
minished, they are enhanced. Even in passionate devotion 

"Leslie D. "Weatherhead, Psychology and Life, p. 79. Copyright, 
1935. Used by permission of Abingdon-Cokesbury Press, publishers. 



100 THE UNDEKSTANDING OP ADULT WAYS 

to Jesus Christ and in meeting the challenge to build a 
new world under his leadership, the inner drives are not 
destroyed; they are redirected. The self is not so much 
renounced as it is consecrated. We both lose ourselves and 
find ourselves in our work; and we come to understand a 
strange paradox, spoken by Him who, through twenty cen- 
turies, has inspired the highest devotion : ' ' He that findeth 
his life shall lose it; and he that loseth his life for my 
sake shall find it." 15 

SOURCE MATERIAL 

1. The basic human drives. — "Many drives combine to produce 
social activity. The fear motive drives men together in times of 
insecurity; the pugnacity motive bands them together for group com- 
bat; the economic motive brings industrial cooperation and organi- 
zation; the self-assertive and submissive tendencies bring emula- 
tion as well as obedience; the expansion of the self to cover one's 
family, one's clique, one's class, one's country contributes to loyalty; 
while the parental instinct, expanding its scope to cover others be- 
sides children who are helpless, leads to self-sacrifice and altruism. 
But besides all these there is the social motive proper, the tendency 
toward group activity, which is not only found by experience to be 
beneficial but, what is more important psychologically, is interesting 
in itself to creatures that have a native capacity for that sort of 
action." (Robert S. Woodworth, Dynamic Psychology, p. 205. Re- 
printed by permission of Columbia University Press.) 

2. Desire for recognition.—' ' The noteworthy thing about the de- 
sire to be recognized by others is that its strength has so little to 
do with the worth of the recognition computed in sensational or 
rational terms. We are crazy to get a visiting-list which shall be 
large, to be able to say when anyone is mentioned, 'Oh! I know 
him well, ' and to be bowed to in the street by half the people we 
meet. Of course distinguished friends and admiring recognition 
are the most desirable — Thackeray somewhere asks his readers to 
confess whether it would not give each of them an exquisite pleasure 
to be met walking down Pall Mall with a duke on either arm. But 
in default of dukes and envious salutations almost anything will do 
for some of us; and there is a whole race of beings today whose 
passion is to keep their names in the newspapers, no matter under 
what heading, 'arrivals and departures,' 'personal paragraphs,' 'in- 
terviews' — gossip, even scandal, will suit them if nothing better is 



^American Standard Revision of the Holy Bible, Matt. 10:39. Copy- 
right, International Council of Religious Education. Used by permis- 
sion. 



THE MOTIVES OF ADULTS 101 

to be had." ("William James, Principles of Psychology, p. 308. 
Copyright renewal, 1918. Used by permission of Henry Holt & Co., 
New York.) 

3. Developed motives in church work. — Lin D. Cartwright proposes 
the following as effective motives in evangelism for today: (a) devo- 
tion to the personality of Christ; (o) desire for peace through for- 
giveness of sin; (c) desire for victorious living; (d) challenge to 
build a Christian world; (e) appeal to the heroic; (/) desire for 
wholesome and stable family life; (g) desire for security in the 
future life. (Evangelism* for Today, pp. 44-54, the Bethany Press, 
St. Louis, 1934.) 

Forrest L. Knapp suggests the following as motives for leadership 
service and growth: (a) seeing the great needs which the church 
must meet; (b) sense of fellowship in a common cause; (c) associa- 
tion with great leaders; (d) seeing the interesting possibilities in 
the leadership enterprise; (e) being successful in the first experi- 
ence of leadership; (/) seeing where one needs to grow; (g) finding 
means of improvement within easy reach; (h) getting practical help 
from leadership education courses; (i) measuring and marking 
progress in growth. (Leadership Education in the Church, pp. 78-97. 
The Abingdon Press, New York, 1933.) 

QUESTIONS FOR THE READER 

1. Reconsider the questions raised in the introductory section of 
this chapter. Having read the chapter and the source materials, can 
you suggest possible answers to these questions? 

2. What is meant by the "motive" of an act? How does it differ 
from the "reason" for an act? 

3. From your own experience, think of examples of adult behavior 
which seemed very largely to result from the basic human drives. 
How may the religious life satisfy these desires? 

4. Make a list of things in which you are especially interested. 
How do you account for these interests? Are there not some of them 
which you can profitably follow much farther than you have? 

5. Consider the three cases of developing interests briefly described 
on page 93. What motives can you discern at work in each case? 
Do you think the initial interest alone assured the final outcome? 
What other factors can we assume to have been present? 

6. Can you detect in any of your own acts the presence of some 
half-hidden motives such as the desire for superiority over an asso- 
ciate, the craving for recognition and approval, the impulse toward 
self -display, etc.? What do you think should be done about these 
half -hidden motives? 

7. Do you agree with the statement that "the desire to realize 
one's self may be said to be the central drive of the normal per- 
sonality"? Give examples of methods and approaches which might 



102 THE UNDERSTANDING OF ADULT WAYS 

be used to appeal to the sense of personal worth in dealing with 
people in home, church, or business. 

8. How may selfless devotion to a cause become a powerful factor 
in strengthening personality? Have you found a "cause" to which 
you can give yourself whole-heartedly? 

QUESTIONS FOR GROUP DISCUSSION 

1. Of the above, questions 2, 3, 5, and 7 might be used for dis- 
cussion in the group. 

2. Discuss the motives listed in Source Material No. 3. How are 
these motives for church work related to the fundamental desires and 
wants ? 

3. "What motives have you found to be most effective in enlisting 
adults in various phases of the work of the church? How have you 
appealed to these motives? 

REPORTS AND INVESTIGATIONS 

1. Report on cases of unusual adult behavior you have observed. 
What do you think was the impelling motive in this behavior? 

2. Report on adult interests which should be met in the church 
school curriculum. Make a check-list of possible adult interests and 
have some adult group indicate their degrees of interest in the 
various items. For suggestions as to fields of adult study see Learn- 
ing for Life, Bulletin 410, International Council of Religious Edu- 
cation. The Council also publishes a four-page "Interest Finder" 
which would be useful in this connection. 



Where life offers proper satisfaction of native drives ; 
where these are blended with the interests and pur- 
poses of men; where there is opportunity for the 
kind of self-expression that gives a sound sense 
of personal worth; and where the self finds some 
object or objects to which it can give itself whole- 
heartedly — under these conditions, personality de- 
velops normally. Some diminution of life's energy 
is inevitable with advancing age, and the zest of life 
may be lost because of poor physical hygiene or dis- 
ease; but except for such physical factors, the adult 
should be able to keep enthusiastic about life. And 
he who keeps his enthusiasm for life has achieved 
lasting happiness. ^ Is not the situation very differ- 
ent from this for multitudes of adults today? Can 
anyone fail to see that there are all too many un- 
happy persons in the modern world? To object that 
happiness is not the end of life and cannot be made 
a standard for judging it, or that in a world like ours 
we should seek not to be happy but to do our duty, 
does not alter the situation. Happiness, though not 
the end of life, is a condition of the right life. And 
would not this happiness be found far more gen- 
erally if something were not seriously wrong with 
us? ^f By "happiness" in this connection is meant not 
any mere emotional thrill but the experience of those 
rich satisfactions that give life worth and zest. And 
this kind of happiness is conspicuously absent from 
much of our life today. Cynicism, sophistication, 
disillusionment, avid pleasure-seeking, irritability, 
and self-pity are common — to say nothing of the 
more serious mental and nervous disturbances, 
which are increasing at an alarming rate. Why are 
so many adults unhappy? 



CHAPTER SIX 



L 



CONFLICT IN ADULT LIFE 

Why Are Many Adults Unhappy? 



I ET US BEGIN OUR CONSIDERATION OF THE PROBLEM OF UN- 

happiness by thinking of a normal, healthy personality — 
the person who has "the ability to maintain an even 
temper, an alert intelligence, socially considerate behavior, 
and a happy disposition." This man, according to Men- 
ninger, has a "healthy mind." 1 He has come to terms 
with life on some satisfactory basis, and we say of him that 
he is a well-adjusted person. What is the nature of this 
life-adjustment ? 

In the simplest terms, to be well-adjusted means that the 
individual, in all his relations with his world, is able 
to live without excessive friction. He has learned how to 
fit into the scheme of things in a way that is satisfying to 
himself, approved by his group, and in accord with the 
moral and spiritual laws of the universe. That, at least, 
is what would constitute psychologically the best life- 
adjustment. In actual experience it is never more than 
partially attained, but the more nearly it is reached, the 
greater the degree of inner harmony and strength. 

At this personal level, adjustment must be understood 
to mean more than a mere passive conformity to environ- 
ment. It is not just any kind of fitting of oneself into one 's 
world, for it will often mean changing particular aspects 
of our world. Yet in one way or another, sufficiently 
harmonious relations must be established to enable us to 
achieve a measure of efficiency and contentment. For 
practical purposes, we may say that if happiness is to be 

J Karl A. Menninger, The Human Mind, p. 2. Alfred A. Knopf, pub- 
Usher, New York. 

105 



106 THE UNDERSTANDING OF ADULT WAYS 

the condition of our lives we must find some satisfactory 
adjustment to ourselves, to nature, to other persons, and to 
God. 

SOCIAL AND RELIGIOUS ADJUSTMENTS 

The first of these four adjustments will be the better 
understood after we have considered other phases of the 
process, and adjustment to nature requires little attention 
here. We are concerned, however, with the need of estab- 
lishing right relations with our fellow-men and with the 
institutions of society; for this adjustment is essential to 
happiness, and a large part of our lives is spent in learn- 
ing how to make it. Harmonious relations with one's fel- 
lows is, of course, not the sole qualification for a worthy 
life; but unless one chooses to be a hermit, there is no 
alternative to living in almost constant relations with 
others. If we do not achieve a more or less satisfactory 
social adjustment, we are, therefore, making no end of 
trouble for ourselves. 

Social adjustment includes our responses, not simply to 
the people we meet from day to day, but as well to the in- 
stitutions of society — its laws, traditions, customs, fashions, 
group practices, and the like. These constitute a frame- 
work into which — unless we can succeed in changing them 
— we must fit ourselves or be constantly irritated by their 
inflexibility and the resulting friction. If men cannot — 
or will not — relate themselves to the institutions of society 
in a way that establishes a fair degree of harmony, they 
either try to break the institutions (the criminal) or they 
succeed in breaking themselves (the neurotic or mentally 
ill). 2 The only other course, which is the one taken by 
people whose attempted adjustment is inadequate, is to live 
in a kind of ' ' intermediate state, ' ' approaching sometimes 

2 See The Human Mind, by Karl Menninger, pp. 23-28. 



CONFLICT EST ADULT LIFE 107 

one side and sometimes the other, but never finding a 
satisfying place of labor or of rest. This group is com- 
posed of the unhappy. 

The life-adjustment of the thoughtful adult will include 
effort to orient himself not merely in society but in the uni- 
verse — to relate his life, not alone to his fellows, but to 
life as a whole, to destiny, to God. Particular theologies 
and rituals may help, or may hinder, the achieving of this 
end and will partly determine the kind of adjustment that 
will bring peace; but through these endeavors men come 
into better, or poorer, relations with a spiritual reality that 
is more than nature or society — that upon which we are 
all dependent — the reality we call God. Adjustment to 
God can never rightly be separated from our relations to 
society, with its institutions and systems of thought and 
belief; but neither can it be wholly identified with our 
social adjustment. God is in man and in nature but is 
more than either or both of them. 

THE HAPPY AND THE UNHAPPY 

The well-adjusted person is one who has come into satis- 
fying relations with all of these phases of the world about 
him. His own needs, desires, and interests are not thwarted 
by his surroundings but come to expression and fulfillment 
in his everyday living. He finds zest in life because of this 
wholesome expression of his own individuality and because 
his energy is not wasted in friction. He is neither coldly 
efficient nor emotionally dissipated but is effective and 
happy. ' ' The happiest souls in the world, ' ' says Weather- 
head, "are those that have made themselves fit into their 
particular sphere, or made their sphere fit them, in whose 
case all the powers of personality are expressing themselves 
in their owner's various reactions to life." 3 



'Leslie D. Weatherhead, Psychology and Life, p. 238. Copyright, 
1935. Used by permission of Abingdon-Cokesbury Press, publishers. 



108 THE UNDERSTANDING OF ADULT WAYS 

The unadjusted person, on the other hand, has been 
unable to fit into his sphere. He may live in a constant 
state of disharmony because of the contrast between what 
he desires to do and what he is able to do. He may try to 
forget his ambitions or to ignore his failures but only 
partially succeed in doing either. He may lay the blame 
on others or indulge in self-pity, and if the conflict is too 
severe, he may have a nervous breakdown. He will never 
feel satisfied with life and will regard it vaguely as some- 
thing of a fraud. Thus he will swell the ranks of the un- 
happy people of our modern world. 

That these ranks are all too large is clearly evident. 
"Statistics say that one out of every twenty of us is, or 
has been, or will be, in a hospital for mental illness, ' ' writes 
Menninger, "and the other nineteen of us don't feel any 
too comfortable all the time, even if we have no fears of 
such extremity." 4 Neurosis is to be found, Seabury esti- 
mates, "in full sixty per cent of our people," and insanity 
has increased "thirty per cent in ten years." 5 "In 1933 
the total number of patient days in all hospitals in the 
United States for mental cases was," according to Link, 
"173,000,000 against 123,000,000 patient days for aU other 
diseases. ' ' 6 

THE MEANING OF CONFLICT 

The basic trouble in these cases of poor adjustment is 
unresolved psychological conflict; and few things can help 
us more in overcoming such difficulties than an understand- 
ing of the nature of conflict and of the wrong and the 
right ways of seeking to resolve it. 

Psychological conflict is strife within ourselves; the 
failure of adjustment to the self. A harsh environment or 

/Karl A. Menninger, The Human Mind, p. 3. Alfred A. Knopf, pub- 
lisher. 

"David Seabury, Growing Into Life, p. 64. Liveright Publishing 
Corporation, New York. 

"Henry C. Link, The Return to Religion, p. 15. Used by permis- 
sion of Macmillan Co., publishers. 



CONFLICT EST ADULT LIFE 109 

other external conditions may lead to inner conflict, but 
the condition itself is essentially one in which something 
within the personality cannot be harmonized. This does 
not mean that the trouble is merely imaginary, nor that we 
can necessarily rid ourselves of it by our own effort, but 
that the seat of it is, in a fundamental sense, in ourselves 
rather than in the world round about us. No matter how 
harsh the conditions of life, some people probably could be 
found who would adapt themselves to them and live without 
dangerous conflict. No matter how favorable external con- 
ditions may be, there will be some men and women in whom 
they will set up conflicts that will have serious conse- 
quences. 

Everyone who has reflected upon the inner life knows 
something of what is meant by conflict. Who has not felt 
within himself a struggle between the desire for power and 
the fear of possible failure? Who has not experienced 
the tension of thoughts and impulses incompatible with our 
moral ideals'? Or has none ever felt the strain between 
an idea of the self as a loyal and reverent churchman and 
some other idea of the self which at times has made a strong 
appeal — perhaps the idea of a "hail fellow, well met," "a, 
man among men, "or a" congenial companion ' ' ? 

WHEN CONFLICT BECOMES SERIOUS 

There is nothing harmful in such conflicts if they are 
handled in a forthright manner. They are a part of the 
experience of all normal men and women, and life would 
be rather insipid without them. But there are many con- 
ditions under which they may become serious factors in 
disrupting personality and destroying happiness. When 
may conflict become serious? It may do so in those cases 
where the forces on both sides of the struggle are very 
strong and yet to give way to either of them would result 
in grave consequences. This danger is always present, also, 



110 THE UNDERSTANDING OF ADULT WAYS 

where there is strong conflict in the individual who has 
never really settled the issue between the opposing desires. 
The young woman who feels it to be her duty to care for 
her invalid mother, though she desires to be married and 
have children of her own, may refuse to admit to herself 
that she desires marriage, and her inner discord may lead 
to irritability and nervousness. The minister who wants 
to speak out boldly against social wrongs but fears he may 
offend some prominent member of his official board may 
be only dimly aware of the cause of his hesitancy and 
anxiety. Yet he may sound an uncertain note in the pulpit 
and show increasing signs of nervous tension because the 
conflict has never been resolved. 

But "conflict, with its emotional tension and accompany- 
ing indecision and paralysis of action, cannot persist in- 
definitely; it is a biological necessity that some solution of 
the difficulty, some way out of the impasse, should be 
found." 7 For this reason men and women strive in a 
variety of ways to get rid of their conflicts and to find re- 
lease from the pain they bring. If they choose the right 
path, they may free themselves from their troubles and 
make life run with a minimum of friction and strain. If 
they choose, or are driven to take, the wrong course, their 
very effort to remove their difficulties will but lead to 
further problems and to the development of unwholesome 
habits of thought and conduct. 

WAYS OP DEALING WITH CONFLICT 

"What, then, are the ways in which men endeavor to re- 
solve their conflicts ? Broadly speaking, there are only two 
ways, although as they are carried through they may take 
many different forms. "VYe may deliberately face the prob- 
lem of the two opposing desires and work out a solution 

'Bernard Hart, The Psychology of Insanity, p. 79, 1925 edition. 
Used by permission of Macmillan Co., publishers. 



CONFLICT IN ADULT LIFE 111 

that is really acceptable to the self. Or we may seek to 
avoid our conflicts rather than to resolve them and thus 
try to find release from tension by the expedient of run- 
ning away from our difficulties. The first procedure is the 
one followed by the sound, well-adjusted personality and 
is the only truly satisfactory course. The second is the 
way of evasion, which is taken by those who have, in some 
degree, failed in their effort to adjust themselves to their 
world. This way of dealing with conflict is never more 
than half successful, and its unwholesome effects on the 
mind may range all the way from relatively harmless per- 
sonal habits, through queer twists of personality, to morbid 
mental states. Because so many persons make at least a 
partial use of this method and because some insight into its 
working may help any adult to a better life-adjustment, it 
will be profitable for us to consider the different forms this 
response may take. Just how do men seek to avoid the 
tension of conflict between opposing desires? 

A device that is sometimes used is that of surrendering 
to one desire and simply trying to ignore the other. But 
this does not solve the problem. Though popular writers 
who emphasize self-expression sometimes seem to suggest 
it as a solution, most people know from experience that it 
is an unsatisfactory course to follow. A conflict between 
sex desire and the moral ideal, for example, is not resolved 
by giving full rein to passion, because any real solution 
must be acceptable to the self as a moral and social being. 
To take the course of indulgence would but set up another 
and more serious conflict. Even as extreme a writer as 
Freud, who is properly criticized for his over-emphasis 
upon sexuality in human life, renounces with vigor the 
suggestion that license ever offers a way out of this diffi- 
culty. It is inconceivable, he says, that any such advice 
should be given by the reputable psychoanalyst. 8 

8 Sigmund Freud, General Introduction to Psycho- Analysis, p. 373. 



112 THE UNDERSTANDING OF ADULT WAYS 

OTHER METHODS OF AVOIDANCE 

Other methods of dealing with conflict by seeking to 
avoid it are likewise unsatisfactory. One of the most com- 
mon of these is a kind of mental trick we play upon our- 
selves when we try to keep opposing ideas from facing each 
other in the full light of conscious attention. Our thought 
may be directed toward one idea, desire, or course of action, 
and though the other may be lurking somewhere in the 
shadows, it is "out of sight" and for the most part is "out 
of mind." We think of ourselves, perhaps, as generous 
and kindly, and this thought is not allowed to interfere 
with our awareness of frequent surrenders to selfish im- 
pulse. In another instance, ideas that might upset some of 
our political or religious beliefs are kept from any inter- 
ference in our thinking by the erection of a mental barrier 
on which we place the sign : "No admittance to disturbing 
ideas." Again, prayers for justice and brotherhood in 
Sunday worship may have little effect upon our daily con- 
duct because we use one set of ideas in church, while an- 
other set of ideas dominates our everyday life, and we 
somehow manage to prohibit any intercourse between them. 
Thus we avoid conflict by the segregation of the opposing 
elements and by keeping them, as far as possible, from 
having anything to do with each other. Where this process 
has been allowed to go to pathological extremes, the mind 
may become so completely divided that the individual is 
said to have a "dual personality." Such persons are the 
Dr. Jekylls and Mr. Hydes of real life. 

But it is not easy to keep the mind thus divided into 
"logic-tight compartments." Ideas and impulses which 
we think we have trained to stay in one place very often 
manage to slip over into another, and when this happens, 
we have to justify the apparent conflict to ourselves. We 
may therefore try to explain it away. This process is called 
rationalization, and it very easily becomes self-deception. 



CONFLICT IN ADULT LIFE 113 

We perhaps excuse our selfish refusal to help someone in 
need on the ground that the beneficiary of some earlier 
generous act showed no proper appreciation of our liberal- 
ity. We justify our postponement of the unpleasant task 
by arguing that in the interests of our health we need the 
time for recreation. We explain that we do not want a 
larger attendance in the church school because we wish 
to do a high quality of work, although the fact may be 
that we could take care of a third more pupils without 
lowering our standards. The teacher with an inordinate 
desire to dominate the thinking of others may declare that 
his overbearing attitude is necessary to keep discipline or 
to silence the idle questioner. The upright citizen often 
fails to report violations of the law because, so he says, 
''the authorities would do nothing about it, anyway." 

PROJECTION AND IDENTIFICATION 

There are still other devices for avoiding conflict which 
the mind uses when realities are not frankly faced. Some- 
times it is very convenient to attribute the source of our 
difficulties to others and to find in the outside world the 
explanation of what we feel within ourselves. It is pro- 
verbial that the bad workman quarrels with his tools, and 
there may some day be a proverb embodying the truth that 
the careless driver accuses his innocent victim of causing 
the accident. Frequently the person who has seriously 
failed complains against the whole structure of the uni- 
verse; and many a case of religious doubt has its source, 
not in the theological ideas in which it is expressed, but in 
emotional tensions having other and very different causes. 
The disloyal lover accuses his beloved of unfaithfulness; 
the doubter criticizes the unbelief of others and protests 
over-much his own adherence to the creed; the strongly- 
sexed spinster complains that some innocent male acquaint- 
ance is paying her undesirable attentions — these are all in- 



114 THE UNDERSTANDING OF ADULT WAYS 

stances of projection. Everything that we hear and see 
— in fact, all of our sensations — have to be interpreted by 
us before they are understood; and if our emotional life 
is seriously disturbed by conflict, our interpretations may 
be grossly distorted. What was in reality nothing more 
than a smile of recognition may be thought to be a sneer; 
what was intended as a compliment may be felt as a slight. 
The man with a guilty conscience projects his tensions into 
the world about him and so feels that all the world is point- 
ing an accusing finger at him. The woman who has strong 
feelings of her own unworthiness may come, by the process 
of projection, to feel that "everybody is talking about" 
her and "everybody is criticizing" her. 

In a similar way, instead of projecting our faults on to 
others, we may appropriate to ourselves virtues which we 
do not really possess by identifying ourselves with those 
who exhibit them or with the ideals themselves. We feel 
as if we are what they are, as if we have the ideals because 
we think about them. If this identification becomes for us 
a stimulus toward the attainment of the ideal, it is a whole- 
some thing and an aid to growth; but if it leads us to sub- 
stitute merely dreaming about ideals for practical effort to 
reach them, it is decidedly unhealthy and arrests growth. 

EXAGGERATED BEHAVIOR 

All of us at some time have known men and women who 
exhibited extreme or exaggerated behavior which was 
often accompanied by excessive emotional display. Our 
acquaintance may have manifested a greatly exaggerated 
opinion of himself — a case of "inflated ego" — or he may 
have gone to the opposite extreme of being so utterly self- 
effacing that he was incapable of significant achievement 
or worthy character. Another person may have peri- 
odically found release in one of those emotional explosions 
that are not inappropriately referred to in colloquial 



CONFLICT EST ADULT LIFE 115 

speech as "blowing up" or he may have allowed himself to 
become a chronic complainer and scold, a bully, a user of 
profanity, or an alcoholic. How is this kind of behavior to 
be explained? 

Adult conduct of this sort is a flight from reality due to 
inability to cope with the situations of life in a rational 
way. The workman whose only response to a difficult 
problem is a string of profanity, the wife who kicks and 
screams until she gets her way, or the husband who re- 
sorts to continuous whining about business or home af- 
fairs, is reacting with exaggerated emotion instead of in- 
telligence. Though adult in years, such a person is still 
a child in the exercise of self-control. This kind of emo- 
tional behavior is a "return to a former, somewhat primi- 
tive and rather childish type of reaction," and hence is 
technically called regression. 9 

In many instances, exaggerated conduct is over-compen- 
sation for inner feelings that are in sharp contrast to what 
appears in the outward act. The pompous individual, 
who enters the room with an air almost like that of a 
god, is frequently a most ordinary sort of person who, be- 
cause of a haunting fear of being discovered for what he 
really is, uses this means to try to hide his true feelings 
from himself and others. 10 The "hard-boiled," strongly 
assertive, overbearing person may in reality harbor deep 
feelings of inferiority which he is trying desperately to 
cover by his brusk exterior. When the emotional life is 
disturbed, "things are seldom what they seem," and one 
who appears to be dominated by a sense of his superior 
gifts may be but trying to convince himself that he is not 
utterly worthless. 

9 Strecker and Appel, Discovering Ourselves, p. 116. Used by per- 
mission of Macmillan Co., publishers. 

10 See Psychology and Life, by Leslie D. Weatherhead, p. 152. 



116 THE UNDERSTANDING OF ADULT WAYS 

SERIOUS MALADJUSTMENT 

The kind of effort to avoid conflict which we have so 
far considered is quite common, and most adults will have 
little difficulty in detecting some of it in their acquaint- 
ances or, perhaps, in themselves. The tendencies noted are 
unsatisfactory methods of adjustment, but unless they are 
carried to extremes they need not have very serious con- 
sequences. They are unwholesome habits of the normal 
mind. Where they are allowed to go to extremes, however, 
these mental processes are danger signs. Segregation, ra- 
tionalization, projection, and over-compensation may then 
become symptoms of serious maladjustment or even of 
mental disease. 

Consider, for example, the extent to which projection 
may be carried by the abnormal mind. The man of guilty 
conscience feels that his friends are aware of his guilt and 
that they are slighting him because of it. He is over-sensi- 
tive to their side glances, and his imagination exaggerates 
every slight. If some misfortune befalls him, he is sure it 
has been sent as a punishment. If the idea that he is 
worthless comes to his mind, he knows that someone has 
said this of him and perhaps he can even name the offender. 
After a time he may believe that he is being persecuted 
by society and that every man 's hand is being lifted against 
him (delusions of persecution) or he may think he hears 
voices calling his name and threatening him with disaster 
(hallucinations). Whenever such false beliefs and illusory 
experiences possess an individual, projection is no longer 
merely an unwholesome habit of the normal mind but has 
become a symptom of mental disease. Similarly, the other 
mental devices for avoiding conflict may be carried to such 
extremes that they become signs of abnormal mentality. 

Disorders of the mind may have very serious effects upon 
personality, however, and yet not be so well defined that 



CONFLICT IN ADULT LIFE 117 

they can be classified as definite mental diseases. Such 
disturbances are often called "borderline cases." 

BORDERLINE CASES 

There is the good workman, for instance, who is so ob- 
sessed by the fear of losing his job that he does not sleep 
properly at night and thus becomes inefficient in his work. 
A mother has read a lurid account of the ravages of disease 
germs and is so anxious to protect her only child from 
danger that she allows cleanliness to become an obsession 
and exhausts herself scrubbing floors, scouring dishes, scat- 
tering disinfectants, and washing doorknobs. Again, a 
man in middle life begins to worry over his bloodpressure 
and his not-too-prosperous business and before long de- 
velops such a general state of anxiety that he stands fear- 
fully at the curb for a long time before he can muster the 
courage to cross the street. Such abnormal fears, or pho- 
bias, keep many adults from the full use of their powers 
and rob them of their chance of happiness. 

Hysterical condition, also on the borderline, is a state of 
mind which causes the afflicted person to show symptoms 
of physical disease although there is no real organic basis 
for the malady. In extreme cases the symptoms may even 
be blindness or paralysis and may thus suggest a purely 
physical cause. The difficulties of the hysterical person, 
however, are chiefly mental rather than organic, and thus 
ordinary physical remedies are not effective — unless, per- 
chance, the patient believes in them so thoroughly that 
they influence the mind by suggestion. What really can 
effect a cure, though not always a permanent one, is faith 
in the remedy used. "Anything in which the patient con- 
fidently believes can cure the disease, whether it be certain 
medicines, personalities, sacred waters, amulets, electric 
belts, magnetic vibrations, wise-women, or what not." 11 

"Dr. H. I. Schou, Religion and Morbid Mental States, p. 173. D. 
Appleton-Century Co., New York. 



118 THE UNDERSTANDING OF ADULT WAYS 

More common, in these days of tense living, is the con- 
dition of general nervous exhaustion, or "weakness of the 
nerves," known technically as neurasthenia. The neuras- 
thenic constantly complains of all kinds of physical ail- 
ments — pains in the head, the stomach, the heart, "all 
over" — and the sufferer is irritable, unable to sleep, nerv- 
ous, diz2y, inconstant, and easily exhausted. 

In cases of nervous exhaustion there may, of course, be 
some actual deficiency in the nerves themselves, but the 
condition is perhaps seldom due to such physical deficiency 
alone. At the root of it there is likely to be mental con- 
flict. The person in this condition has been likened to an 
automobile which has no oil but plenty of gas, with engine 
running, in gear, and the brakes on ! The friction within 
is so great there is no power left for accomplishment in 
the world outside. Incapacitated for the activities of life, 
the neurasthenic may really find satisfaction in the suffer- 
ing which keeps him from all strenuous pursuits. His 
condition is the outcome of the long struggle of one who 
has never come to terms with himself, whose conflicts and 
cross-purposes have never been properly resolved. 

DEFINITE DISEASES OF THE MIND 

What happens when men are wholly unable to cope with 
life? Quite literally, personality goes to pieces, and we 
see some of those strange distortions of the mind which 
psychiatrists recognize as definite mental diseases. 12 It is 
not possible to discuss these serious illnesses within the 
limits of this book, but their relation to the milder mental 
disturbances should be noted. Where they are not due to 
physical disease or to actual injury to the brain tissue, they 
are the result, in its most extreme form, of inability to 
resolve conflict. That, at least, is the explanation offered 
by many specialists in this field and is the theory by which 

"See Source Material No. 1. 



CONFLICT EST ADULT LIFE 119 

they are guided in their therapeutic practice. "When con- 
flict is severe and the individual cannot be satisfied with 
the makeshift solutions discussed earlier in this chapter, 
some minds fall back upon the method of avoidance in its 
most extreme and elaborate form. They seek to avoid their 
difficulty by allowing one of the unpleasant, conflicting ele- 
ments to be pushed out of the sphere of consciousness al- 
together, so that they not only forget it but are even un- 
aware of what has taken place. This kind of forgetting is 
called repression. Since the tendencies on one side of the 
conflict are thrust into the limbo of man 's forgotten things, 
while those on the other side remain in the mind, there 
can be no open strife between them. The problem thus 
seems to be solved. 

The trouble with this course, however, is that there is 
still conflict in the personality, although the individual is 
unaware, or only dimly aware, of its nature. The offending 
element has not really been erased from the mind; it has 
merely been submerged in its depths. Later, it may come 
to the surface in a disguised form — say, as a neurotic 
symptom — which can be properly interpreted only by the 
aid of someone who understands the workings of the dis- 
tressed mind. At any time, it may be a source of strain 
and may give peculiar twists to thought and conduct. 
When the strain of this kind of unconscious conflict be- 
comes too great, personality tends to disintegrate, and the 
disordered mind is filled with weird notions, which, to it, 
seem more real than the perceptions of the actual world. 
Thus the unfortunate individual moves into the realm of 
fantasy and illusion — the world of unreality, which is the 
habitat of the insane. This is the extremity to which one 
may go who is wholly unable to cope with life. 

Most of us are kept from taking this tragic course, and 
we may ourselves never experience even mild nervous and 
mental upsets. But an alarming number of our fellow- 



120 THE UNDERSTANDING OF ADULT WAYS 

travelers succumb to the strain of modern life. In their 
struggle to resolve their conflicts they take the course that 
leads to mental disease. This course, according to Dr. 
Boisen, may offer a kind of solution but, if so, it is a nega- 
tive and unsatisfactory one. It is often accompanied by 
a deep sense of isolation and estrangement because of the 
presence in life of that which one is afraid to tell. It may 
lead to further disintegration of personality. It really 
represents inner defeat. 13 

But there is also the possibility of a higher solution — 
a positive one — and where this is found, it will be recog- 
nized as a form of religious experience. The individual is 
released from his fear and guilt. Personality undergoes 
a constructive transformation. Life is unified and is 
brought into accord with the highest loyalties. And this 
course, says the psychologist, represents inner victory. It 
represents, too, as Christian faith declares, the true re- 
sponse of human personality to the call of the Divine. In- 
numerable men and women have resolved their conflicts 
and have found the higher happiness by saying with un- 
derstanding and from the heart : "I will arise and go to 
my Father." 

SOURCE MATERIAL 

1. Some "'primary" mental diseases. — Primary mental diseases 
are those which, so far as is known, do not originate in any actual 
deterioration of the brain structure. The more common of these 
diseases are: (a) Manic-depressive psychosis — a very severe mental 
depression (melancholia), or extreme elation, excitability and fever- 
ish activity without apparent fatigue. Some victims fluctuate be- 
tween these two extremes, (o) Paranoia — in this state the sufferer 
is unduly suspicious and thinks he has been greatly wronged. He 
may possess an elaborate system of delusions which nevertheless fit 
harmoniously into his scheme of thought. In some instances the 
individual, though completely unbalanced on one subject, may seem 
to be almost normal in other respects, (c) Dementia praecox (now 
often called schizophrenia, "split-mind") is the disease which af- 

13 Anton T. Boisen, The Exploration of the Inner World, pp. ix, 368. 
Willett, Clark & Co., 1937. 



CONFLICT IN ADULT LIFE 121 

flicts the majority of the chronic and incurable cases in our mental 
hospitals. The symptoms include extreme emotional dullness, hallu- 
cinations, weird attitudes and postures, and, most characteristic of 
all, the progressive disintegration of personality. Some authorities 
regard this disease as always incurable, but in recent years numer- 
ous cures have been effected. (For further descriptions, with case 
studies, see Psychiatry and Mental Health, by John Rathbone Oliver. 
Charles Scribner's Sons, New York, 1933.) 

2. Conflict and "nerves." — Leslie Weatherhead, speaking to a 
patient who came to him feeling himself beaten by life, thinking of 
suicide, and saying his doctor was tired of him and called it 
"nerves," said: "I'll have a chat with your doctor. I've worked 
with him before. Your nerves probably are affected. We'll find 
that out in a moment. But your nerves are not the cause. Your 
inner mind is in a state of disharmony — not your brain, there's 
nothing the matter with that, and there's no sign of your going 
mad — but a mind in conflict affects the sensitive nervous system 
often before it affects other parts of the body. The conflict may 
be very deep in the mind, right down in what we call the uncon- 
scious; a conflict, it may be, between your various selves. ... It 
may be a condition needing more time than I can spare and more 
skill than I possess. If so, you'll have to be sent to a professional 
psychotherapist. But it may be conscious, or so near consciousness 
that you can bring it all to the conscious level. Let's see what 
you can bring to consciousness. Bemember that McDougall says 
the first law of mental health is to know yourself, and remember 
William James's wise word about the necessity of exteriorizing 
your rottenness. Let's look all the factors full in the face." 
(Leslie D. Weatherhead, Psychology and Life, p. 3. Copyright, 
1935. Used by permission of Abingdon-Cokesbury Press, publishers.) 

QUESTIONS FOR THE READER 

1. Do you think that happiness should be a quality of adult life? 
What proportion of the adults you know do you consider to be well- 
adjusted personalities? 

2. Does church membership assure a right adjustment to God? 
Why? Why not? What would do so? 

3. Why do some persons, living under harsh conditions, keep from 
developing inner conflicts while others in favorable circumstances 
develop them? 

4. Are you conscious of any conflicts in your own personality 
which impair your efficiency or your happiness? How do you seek 
to resolve them? 

5. Give examples from your own observation of the use of some 
of the devices for avoiding conflict described in the text. 



122 THE UNDERSTANDING OF ADULT WAYS 

6. Explain the difference between projection as an unwholesome 
habit of the normal mind and as a symptom of mental disease. 

7. Why does confession of wrongdoing (aside from its distinc- 
tively religious significance) often have real value in preserving 
mental health? Have you been helped by confiding in others? Have 
others found help through confiding in you? 

QUESTIONS FOR GROUP DISCUSSION 

1. Of the above questions, 2, 3, 5, and 6 might be made the 
basis of discussion. 

2. Discuss the difference between repression, ordinary forgetting, 
and the deliberate suppression of some unworthy impulse. 

REPORTS AND INVESTIGATIONS 

1. Report on discussions of the "unconscious" or "subconscious" 
mind. (See references in the Bibliography.) There are marked 
differences among psychologists as to the significance of these levels 
of the mind. 

2. Report on ways in which the church can help in the promotion 
of mental health and in ministering to the mentally ill. 



The maintenance of mental health is a major prob- 
lem of the adult years and is a matter in which the 
church must be deeply concerned. Not only have 
the conditions of modern life greatly increased the 
possibilities of conflict and mental strain, but what- 
ever habits of faulty adjustment the individual may 
have developed in childhood or youth are likely to 
become more serious handicaps as he battles his 
way in the adult world. Mental and nervous diffi- 
culties and abnormalities are by no means uncom- 
mon, and the number of victims of the over-stimu- 
lation of modern life is distressingly large. <J But 
there is another good reason for considering even 
the more extreme maladjustments and that is that 
they throw light upon the workings of the normal 
mind. Modern psychology has made it clear that 
some tendencies which, if extreme, would be symp- 
toms of abnormality may be present in some degree 
even in the person who must be considered quite 
healthy-minded. By seeing these tendencies in their 
more extreme form in the maladjusted personality, 
we may thus be enabled to understand ourselves the 
better. <J With this thought before us, let us take 
up our search for a constructive answer to the ques- 
tion: How can the adult maintain a healthy mind? 



T, 



CHAPTER SEVEN 

THE MENTAL HEALTH OF ADULTS 

How Can the Adult Maintain a Healthy Mind? 



HE BEST SAFEGUARD AGAINST DISORDERS OF THE MIND IN 

the adult years is to have established sound habits of 
thought and feeling during childhood and youth. The 
road to mental health does not begin at the point where 
adulthood is reached. We may have traveled a consider- 
able distance along this road before we leave the parental 
home, get married, or enter business and we may, there- 
fore, be largely secure against taking any wrong turn 
that might bring us to the mental hospital. 

On the other hand, a wrong turn may already have been 
taken in earlier life, so that as adults we shall find the 
trail back to the highway only with great difficulty. It 
may be necessary for us to retrace our steps to discover 
just where we went astray, but by seeing how the wrong 
turn was made, we should then be able to set our feet 
more firmly on the road of the healthy mind. Where do 
people most frequently leave this course? 

Whether in youth or in adulthood, they do so at a turn- 
ing which, as our earlier discussion has suggested, might 
be called the way of evasiveness. The wrong turn is made 
when we take the course of seeking to avoid our difficulties; 
when instead of directly attacking our problems, we run 
away from them, imagine they are not there, or hunt for 
excuses for our failure to deal with them. 

THE HABIT OF FACING FACTS 

We may set down, therefore, as the most important single 
consideration in maintaining a healthy mind, the habit of 
facing facts and of handling the various situations that 

125 



126 THE UNDERSTANDING OP ADULT WAYS 

confront us in a clear-headed, objective manner. The per- 
son who has cultivated this kind of response to life does 
not allow his emotions — his fears, pleasures, and prejudices 
— to over-influence his thinking. He tries to reason log- 
ically and to be realistic and objective in his judgments. 
If his own child is accused of some wrongdoing, his re- 
sponse is not a declaration that such a thing is impossible 
but a calm endeavor to get at the facts. If he fails in some 
endeavor, he does not waste time blaming others or in- 
dulging in self-pity but seeks to understand the reasons 
for his failure and makes a serious effort to correct his 
faults. Should some deep sorrow overtake him, he may 
for a time bend under its weight but he will not long re- 
main in the shadows nor will he try to persuade himself 
that his grief is not real. Soon he will rise to face life 
resolutely and to ask what it now requires of him. 

Whoever consistently meets life in this forthright way 
has advanced far toward the maintenance of mental health. 
His mind is toughened by the exercise of facing problems, 
acknowledging facts, making practical readjustments, and 
following through with vigorous action the courses decided 
upon. He is not over-sensitive to criticism but stands ready 
to review what he has done in the light of its consequences 
and to admit error where it is clearly shown. In his atti- 
tude toward his fellows, he has nothing of what might be 
called "undue suspiciousness" and he refuses to believe 
unfounded rumor though it may sound impressive because 
borne to him on a wave of emotion. Fortunate indeed is 
the person whose childhood and youth have equipped him 
with such sound habits of thought, feeling, and conduct. 

EVALUATING OUR MENTAL HEALTH 

Is there some simple way of checking ourselves as to our 
possession of such habits ? The eminent psychologist Mor- 
gan suggests some questions which if answered sincerely 



THE MENTAL, HEALTH OP ADULTS 127 

and carefully should give us a relatively accurate eval- 
uation of our mental health. (1) Are you happy? Mis- 
fortune may bring temporary distress, but lasting un- 
happiness is a sign of maladjustment. (2) Have you 
breadth of vision f Variety of interests and ability to see 
virtue in those who view life differently from ourselves are 
important marks of a healthy mind. Narrowness is a sign 
of weakness. (3) Can you do things easily and smoothly? 
Blocking of speech and awkwardness of bodily movement 
suggest some lack of mental balance. (4) Do you enjoy 
solving problems? The constant changes in life present 
a continual challenge, and the person of healthy mind at- 
tacks his problems with deliberation and courage. (5) 
Have you a manifest objective in life? Few things are 
more indicative of a sound mind than the forward look. 
(6) Do you clearly understand the factors in life that 
motivate you? We tend to delude ourselves into thinking 
that ignoble impulses never move us. It is important to 
understand our motives, whether high or low, and to lift 
them into the clear light of consciousness. (7) Do you 
get along with people? The socially mature person feels 
at ease in the company of others and feels that people in 
general are kindly disposed toward him. Such social ad- 
justments are signs of mental health. 1 

If we are able truthfully to give affirmative answers to 
these questions, we are probably facing life squarely and 
are ready to bear the responsibilities of adulthood. On the 
other hand, if we find it necessary to make many negative 
answers, or to qualify overmuch the answers we make, there 
is good reason for some self-examination to find out why 
our responses are as they are. 

But suppose we possess some unwholesome mental hab- 
its, what then can we do? This principle of dealing with 

*J. B. Morgan, Keeping a Sound Mind, pp. 6-13 (condensed). Used 
by special permission of Macmillan Co., publishers. 



128 THE UNDERSTANDING OF ADULT WAYS 

ourselves realistically has value not only in preparing us 
for the strain of adult life and thus preventing the occur- 
rence of many mental and nervous difficulties, but it also 
gives definite guidance for the correction of such difficul- 
ties if they should occur. Perhaps no one is completely 
free from the possibility of some disruption of the smooth 
functioning of the mind; and the first principle of cure as 
well as of prevention, in most cases at least, is to face the 
trouble frankly and to gain an understanding of its true 
character. 

CAN WORRY BE UNLEARNED ? 

Consider the most common of all emotional discomforts 
— the habit of worry. It would be difficult to estimate the 
amount of distress and inefficiency that results from this 
mental exercise. Yet it is certain that a large percentage 
of worry could be eliminated if adults deliberately followed 
the first principle of mental health: understand the sit- 
uation, accept the facts, act resolutely. This is the thesis 
of Dr. Chappell's stimulating discussion of worry and its 
control. Since, as he says, the extreme worrier is com- 
pletely at loss to explain why he feels as he does, and since 
we fear that which we do not understand, a clear recogni- 
tion of his condition is necessary to the removal of these 
emotional flares. Let him see that worry is a habit which 
has been learned by practice; that the practice of other 
responses may be substituted for the act of worrying; 
and that this substitution may enable him to forget his 
unwholesome activity through failure to practice it. With 
these things clearly understood, the worrier will have taken 
a vitally important step toward self-mastery. To go for- 
ward most adults will, no doubt, need the help of some de- 
tailed procedures, and these cannot be discussed here; but 
the essential requirement is understanding and action. 
Professor H. L. Hollingworth maintains that "insight" 



THE MENTAL HEALTH OF ADULTS 129 

into the worrier's difficulties is all that is required to cor- 
rect most of them. In the past, mysterious and magical 
explanations have sometimes had this beneficial effect, but 
today the "worrier will rid himself of his miseries more 
readily when he is given explanations based on sound com- 
mon sense and scientific observations." 2 

Suppose, however, one is so unfortunate as to experience 
a serious mental illness; say, the kind of severe depression, 
or melancholia, that is known technically as a "manic- 
depressive psychosis." This is something very different 
from the ordinary moods of dejection that may sometimes 
come to any normal person and is a condition so severe 
that it completely incapacitates for everyday life and set- 
tles down upon the individual as if it were a permanent 
state. The correction of the condition calls for understand- 
ing and cooperation on the part of those associated with 
the sufferer and, as far as possible, on the part of the 
victim himself. It does absolutely no good — and may do 
a great deal of harm — to urge him to "snap out of it." 
He needs careful and considerate attention by friends and 
relatives and should be given treatment in an institution 
where he can have proper care. But he needs, too, some 
insight into his own condition. From his wide experience 
in the fields of psychiatry and of medical practice, Dr. 
John Rathbone Oliver thus counsels the minister as to what 
he should say to the victim of depression while sending him 
to the mental hospital for treatment: "Tell him first of 
all," says Dr. Oliver, "that he is not losing his mind; 
that he could not 'go crazy' if he wanted to; that he is 
suffering from a temporary mental upset, which in the 
mental sphere is about as serious as an attack of influenza 
in the domain of physical illnesses. Impress upon him the 
fact that he is sure to get well in time ; that his mind when 

2 M. M. Chappell, In the Name of Common Sense, p. 45. Used by 
permission of Macmillan Co., publishers. 



130 THE UNDERSTANDING OP ADULT WAYS 

the depression lifts will be as unimpaired as it was when 
the illness began, and that he will look back on his present 
suffering as an awakened man looks back on some hor- 
rible dream. Beg him, above all, not to give up the rou- 
tine practices of his religious life. Even though he has lost 
his faith, even though he feels himself an outcast from 
God, even though his private devotions seem empty routine 
and his church attendance a farce, even though he can- 
not 'believe,' beg him to keep on 'doing.' " 3 

A PROGRAM OF ACTION 

Another requirement for the maintenance of mental 
health, in addition to the frank facing of the realities of 
life, is the adoption of a definite program of action that 
will help to keep us "mentally fit" and ready to ward off 
any threat to our mental equilibrium. Doubtless there are 
many adults who need to give very little attention to the 
condition of their nerves or their mental health and who 
go through life with no feeling of excessive strain. They 
have strong bodies, perhaps, or strong wills or "nerves of 
steel" or a particular type of temperament which causes 
them to show little sensitiveness to anything outside their 
own clear purposes. But there are hosts of others who 
could be relieved of much distress and be made happier 
and more efficient by a simple, rational program for han- 
dling minor disturbances and for keeping a sound mind. 

While human personality is a complex thing and the 
strain of modern life may affect it in devious ways, there 
are a few places where we need to be especially on our 
guard lest by our failure to act intelligently we make 
trouble for ourselves. What are some of these crucial 
points? One of the most important of them is in handling 
our emotions. The emotional life is of supreme value to 

8 John Rathbone Oliver, Psychiatry and Mental Health, pp. 44-45. 
Charles Scribner's Sons, New York. 






THE MENTAL HEALTH OP ADULTS 131 

us and has much to do with our sense of worthwhileness 
in the things we do, yet it has an explosive quality and 
can easily get out of control. The maintenance of mental 
health depends upon a mature handling of the emotions, 
and unless this mature response has already become habit- 
ual, there is need of a deliberate program of action which 
may be followed whenever the emotions tend to get out 
of hand. 

Many adults confess that, at least in certain areas of 
their lives, they are victims of the emotion of fear. Some 
things, of course, are rightly to be feared, but the emotion 
may become detached from specific objects and spread its 
influence to a great many of our responses. It may, for 
example, be a serious handicap to the salesman who, be- 
cause of it, loses confidence in himself before his interview 
with a high executive, or to the minister who is hindered 
in his sermon preparation by the feeling that he is un- 
equal to the task, or to the woman who changes her street 
car several times in a short distance so as to run less 
danger of catching a contagious disease. Perhaps most 
persons would have to admit that they are possessed of 
some unwholesome fears, whether serious or slight; and 
if they are, it is well to admit it— and then do something 
about it. Deliberately to do the thing we fear may some- 
times bring victory, but it is not always the wise procedure. 
It is a good rule, however, not to allow ourselves to be- 
come afraid of our fears. A mature handling of ourselves 
would involve effort to discover and to understand the 
cause of our fears and, seeing this clearly, to gain the 
mastery over them. This does not mean that they will 
immediately disappear but that they will have less power 
to render us inefficient and that we may learn to use them 
rather than simply allowing them to use us. Fear of dis- 
ease, thus brought under control, may motivate us to take 
proper precautions against its ravages or to campaign for 



132 THE UNDERSTANDING OF ADULT WAYS 

its prevention; and fear that we are unequal to some task 
may urge us to make more thorough preparation and may 
give us a due sense of our responsibility in performing it. 

MASTERING OUR MOODS 

But perhaps our problem with emotion is to gain mastery 
over our moods — to learn to handle ourselves wisely during 
those periods of depression which, at one time or another, 
come to us all. In a world like ours today, with tragedy 
and suffering so widespread, we may rightly resent the 
easygoing optimism of the person who says he never feels 
blue. Such an attitude may indicate a very superficial 
character. But on the other hand, our feelings of de- 
pression are seldom a sound response to conditions in the 
world, and they often make us less able to cope with life 
about us. Not infrequently they spring from some hurt 
to our self-esteem; some "touchiness" about our position 
or over-sensitiveness to the estimate others have of us. 
They may be the result of failure which has not been 
squarely faced, of indulgence in self-pity, or of too great 
a drain upon our nervous energy. Possibly some of them 
are inevitable changes in the rhythm of our emotional life. 
Whatever the stimulus that sets them off, we need some 
way of handling them so that we shall not allow ourselves 
to become their servants. We can often trace them to their 
source and correct the condition. At least we can work 
out our own way of dealing with them as promptly and as 
effectively as possible. One group of college students, 
asked about their ways of doing this, reported, among 
other procedures, the following: taking a walk, reading 
poetry, going to a show, working hard at something, play- 
ing the piano, driving a car, and remembering that "to- 
morrow is another day." 4 In general, adults should have 
better emotional control than young people, but where the 

4 See The Human Mind, by Karl Menninger, p. 361. 



THE MENTAL HEALTH OF ADULTS 133 

problem exists it is important to "understand that some- 
thing needs to be done. Passive submission is no solution. 

Failure in the management of the emotional life is per- 
haps most conspicuous in some of the forms of exaggerated 
behavior which were briefly described in the last chapter, 
especially in those explosions of temper which were said 
to be a return to an infantile reaction. Such upheavals, 
even if they are indulged in by the head of the house or 
by the manager of the firm, are signs of emotional imma- 
turity. They are due to childish absorption in immediate 
feeling (one may "feel better" after the explosion), 
whereas a mature reaction would consider more remote 
objectives and then work out a rational way of attaining 
them. All such exaggerated emotional behavior is a threat 
to mental health. 

A second place where we can profitably be on guard 
against allowing ourselves to drift into trouble is in han- 
dling our handicaps. Can any adult be found who does 
not have some handicap to overcome? It may be a minor 
hindrance such as plain features or limited economic re- 
sources or it may be a serious handicap like physical de- 
formity, loss of sight or hearing, seemingly impossible 
economic conditions, strong feelings of inferiority, or 
chronic ill health. But whether serious or slight, his limita- 
tion may be allowed to have an unwholesome effect upon 
his personality or it may, at least for most adults, become 
a stimulus to greater accomplishment. Whatever the na- 
ture of our handicaps, the proper handling of them will 
build up our reserves of strength and lessen the possi- 
bility of our falling a victim to mental strain. 

DEALING WITH HANDICAPS 

What is required for the most effective dealing with our 
handicaps? Two things, at least: a wholesome view of 
them, and a program of action which seeks a reasonable 



134 THE UNDERSTANDING OF ADULT WAYS 

solution of the problem. More than half the battle is al- 
ready won for the person who takes an objective and con- 
structive attitude toward his limitations. On the other 
hand, where feelings of shame or of self-pity have been 
associated with these obstacles, the individual will find it 
difficult indeed to rise above them. With such feelings, 
however, the mature personality will have nothing to do. 
If the hindrances are due to past failures or sins and these 
have been faced in penitence and faith, the Christian as- 
surance of forgiveness should remove the emotional strain, 
though it cannot, of course, alter the consequences of what 
we have done. If our limitations are due to factors which 
we could not control, there is no valid cause for shame; 
and any inclination toward self-pity will be given a hard 
blow if we recall that others have courageously borne far 
greater burdens or have overcome barriers that were far 
more formidable than ours. 

The active handling of our handicaps should be aimed 
either at their removal or at the establishing of wholesome 
compensations for them. Many handicaps can be com- 
pletely cleared away if we have the courage and persistence 
necessary for the task. Multitudes of adults, sensing their 
educational limitations, have found the way to gain further 
schooling, and parents have sometimes earned college de- 
grees along with their children. Stutterers have become 
fluent speakers, business failures have achieved success, and 
men and women of flabby muscles and weak lungs have 
deliberately built their bodies back to robust health. 

But, obviously, not all handicaps can be removed. We 
may have to go through life possessed of a frail body or a 
low-spirited temperament. We cannot all have an impres- 
sive physique or a brilliant mind. Loss of sight or of hear- 
ing may be irreparable. Social situations may set rigid 
limits upon the possible achievement of adults, and eco- 



THE MENTAL HEALTH OF ADULTS 135 

nomic necessity may keep them in "uncongenial employment. 
How may handicaps like these be effectively handled? 

In the face of unalterable conditions, the only sound 
course is to say convincingly to ourselves, "I will accept 
what I cannot alter." That is an essential principle of 
mental health, and when followed removes a great deal of 
unnecessary friction from life. But such an adjustment 
does not mean that nothing further can be done. The 
way is still open for the development of wholesome com- 
pensations, and these are essential factors in the equip- 
ment of a healthy mind. If we cannot be handsome, we 
may yet cultivate an attractive personality; if we cannot 
read profound things, we may nevertheless love beautiful 
things; if we are not able to accomplish as much in an 
hour as can our clever acquaintance, we may by taking 
three hours do more than he. Where the daily task is 
drudgery, our hobbies may release our spirits; and where 
health is unalterably poor, we may bear our burden with 
fortitude and lay hold of spiritual energies that will en- 
able us to do many things that otherwise would be impos- 
sible. We may even learn the meaning of some great 
words of an ancient sufferer: The Lord "hath said unto 
me, My grace is sufficient for thee : for my power is made 
perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather 
glory in my weaknesses that the power of Christ may rest 
upon me." 5 

GETTING ALONG WITH OTHERS 

A third area, in which we may need to be on the watch 
lest we develop unwholesome mental habits, is in handling 
our relations with our fellows, particularly those more in- 
timate relations that are suggested by the phrase, ' ' getting 
along with others." For most of us, a large part of our 

^American Standard Revision of the Holy Bible, 2 Cor. 12:9. Copy- 
right, International Council of Religious Education. Used by per- 
mission. 



136 THE UNDERSTANDING OP ADULT WAYS 

lives is spent in relatively small and more or less intimate 
groups which offer opportunities for stimulation and re- 
freshment but which, because of our own faulty adjust- 
ment, may become a constant source of irritation and 
strain. There are, for example, the family and the neigh- 
borhood, the club and the circle of friends, the church and 
2hurch school groups, professional acquaintances, and as- 
sociates in factory, office, or store. In any of these groups, 
friction may sometimes be unavoidable, so that to seek to 
escape it would be a mark of weakness instead of a sign 
of strength. But there will be innumerable instances 
where one who has learned to manage himself in relation 
to his fellows will not only avoid friction and inner tur- 
moil but will also help to make these everyday relation- 
ships contribute to the enrichment of life. 

Is there not some guiding principle for the proper han- 
dling of these intimate personal relations'? Detailed skills 
will, of course, have to be developed through practice. 
But the basic requirement is a genuine respect for per- 
sonality — the kind of respect which makes us interested 
in persons for their own sakes and not simply because of 
their position, class, creed, intellectual attainments, or spe- 
cial abilities. The adult who has this respect for persons 
will find it easy to listen attentively to others and will try 
to see things from their points of view. He will often see 
admirable qualities in those for whom he has no natural 
liking; and whenever he is in a position to give appro- 
priate recognition to them, he will not refrain from doing 
so. He will seek to rid himself of all those impulses and 
attitudes that may become festering places in mental life : 
exaggerated self-esteem, selfishness, and, particularly, jeal- 
ousy and envy. The jealous person often becomes so sus- 
picious of others that he destroys the very thing he seeks 
to safeguard — his wife's love, perhaps, or his "position" 
in the firm — while he who allows envy to linger in his 



THE MENTAL HEALTH OF ADULTS 137 

heart will find himself in the anomalous and distressing 
situation of being made unhappy by the success of his 
friends. When these impulses are brought under con- 
trol, however, and there is a deliberate purpose to recog- 
nize the worth of others, we are well on the way toward 
the proper management of our relations with our fellows. 
As we go on, we shall cultivate the necessary skills and 
at one and the same time strengthen social ties and destroy 
the germs of mental disease. 

RELIGION AND MENTAL HEALTH 

Though our discussion of mental health has been ap- 
proached from the standpoint of psychology, we have come 
very close to a realm where religion can be of the most 
direct help and where we may begin to see that many of 
our mental difficulties would disappear if we but learned 
to walk more intelligently and trustfully in the way of 
Christ. Why have so many one-sided mental health cults 
arisen in recent years? It seems apparent that their rise 
would have been greatly checked if ' ' orthodox ' ' Christians 
had recognized more fully, and had learned to use more 
effectively, the resources of the Christian religion. A dis- 
ciplined religious life of personal devotion and unselfish 
service will reinforce personality at the very points where 
there is the greatest danger of mental strain. A vigorous 
faith is the best antidote to emotional disorders; Chris- 
tian optimism provides a basis for managing our handi- 
caps; and love that is inspired by Christ enables men to 
recognize worth in even "the least of these my brethren" 
and helps them to keep wholesome their relations with all 
their fellows. 

The possibility of maintaining mental health is thus 
greatly increased for those adults who are motivated and 
sustained by a genuine Christian faith. The life attitudes 
in relation to God and to our fellows that are encouraged 



138 THE UNDERSTANDING OP ADULT WAYS 

by reflection upon the teachings of Jesus or upon the prac- 
tical counsels in the epistles of Paul are precisely those 
emphasized by some of the best writers of today in the 
field of mental hygiene. There is general recognition of 
the truth of Dr. Sadler's declaration that "fear and doubt 
are disease-producing; while faith and hope are health- 
giving." 6 One who had really incorporated into his 
philosophy of life some of the main ideas of the Sermon 
on the Mount or those of the twelfth chapter of Romans 
or of the thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians would be 
in little danger of falling a victim to mental strain. 

"not everyone that saith ..." 
It must be understood, of course, that these Christian 
principles will not function in this way if they remain mere 
verbal formulations. They will do so only if they are 
allowed to modify our thought and conduct and are them- 
selves checked by our experience. Then they will issue 
in a more Christian way of life. Meditation and prayer 
are meant to be either preludes to action or the results of 
action; and it is as true of the "kingdom of health" as 
of the Kingdom of Heaven that "not everyone that saith 
. . . but he that doeth" shall enter. A sincere acceptance 
of the way of Christ, declares Dr. Sadler in a technical 
work intended for the medical profession, would wipe out 
"more than one-half of the difficulties, diseases, and sor- 
rows of the human race." 6 Likewise, the distinguished 
analyst, Dr. Jung, reports that he has never had a patient 
over thirty-five years of age "whose problem in the last 
resort was not that of finding a religious outlook on life. ' ' 7 
The contribution of religion to mental health is thus of 
the greatest significance. Most men and women need a 

«W. S. Sadler, The Theory and Practice of Psychiatry, pp. 1072-73. 
C. V. Mosby Co., Medical Publishers, St. Louis. 

7 Carl Jung, Modern Man in Search of a Soul, p. 246. Harcourt, 
Brace & Co., New York, 1933. 



THE MENTAL HEALTH OF ADULTS 139 

"religious outlook on life." And the heart of the Chris- 
tian message is that we are not dependent merely upon 
our own devices for this sustaining view of life. God him- 
self took the initiative and in Jesus Christ revealed what 
it is most needful we should know of his nature and pur- 
pose. "The gospel is good news; not just good advice." 
Our mental difficulties can never be overcome simply by 
looking within ourselves; we must find our final security 
in Another. 

In seeking to maintain mental health, we may often have 
to turn our attention within but we shall always do so 
with the purpose of gaining insight and control that we 
may take up afresh the business of life. And both the 
inward look and the outward act will be kept wholesome 
by genuine commitment of ourselves to God. Such com- 
mitment releases us from preoccupation with the self and 
gives confidence in the possibility of victory. In the final 
analysis, the necessary condition of mental health in the 
twentieth century — as in the thirteenth or in the first — 
is harmony with. God. "In His will is our peace." 

SOURCE MATERIAL 

1. The management of fears. — "What advice should be given to 
people who are tormented with obsessions and tortured by phobias? 
' ' The general rule is simple enough, ' ' writes John Rathbone Oliver, 
"but you will have a hard time to make people follow it. 

"If you have a phobia — a fear — do not be afraid of it. Do not 
try to keep it out of your mind. Do not be always on the lookout 
for it, always expecting to see it sticking its head into your con- 
sciousness. Accept it. You cannot keep it out, no matter how hard 
you try. Therefore, give up that useless struggle. Say to your 
fear thought : ' I am not afraid of you. I know that I cannot 
keep you out. So come along in. You are not a very pleasant 
guest. But I know you. I've had you as a guest before. And I 
know that you cannot do me any real harm — unless you stir me up 
and make me angry and afraid.' To be able to feel or to experience 
fear without being afraid: that, in a few words, is the rule of 
victory. Accept your obsession; make a friend of it; be able to 
talk about it. You will rob it of its power." (John Rathbone 



140 THE UNDERSTANDING OF ADULT WAYS 

Oliver, Psychiatry and Mental Health, p. 151. Charles Scribner's 
Sons, New York, 1933.) 

2. Why religion may not help. — "In many cases religion does 
help. . . . But many a neurasthenic is like a man sitting in a room 
in which the windows are all smoked glass. As he looks out, the 
world seems the dullest and most dismal of places. God seems dis- 
tant and unreal. Beligious phrases are repeated, but they lack mean- 
ing and do not correspond to any experience in the patient. . . . 
But it is most important to realize that it is his attitude to life 
that is wrong. In other words, the central self of the patient is 
untouched. But the windows of the house of life, through which 
he is bound to look as long as he is in the body, are smoked, and 
he does not know how to clean them. . . . An appeal to religion 
may not be immediately successful, but this must not be thought 
to be a loss of faith on the part of the patient or a proof that 
religion is ' no good. ' For even bright sunlight cannot pierce a 
heavily smoked window. And that fact is no criticism of the sun, 
or a proof that the watcher by the window has gone blind." (Leslie 
D. Weatherhead, Psychology and Life, pp. 4-5. Copyright, 1935. 
Used by permission of Abingdon-Cokesbury Press, publishers.) 

3. Thinking of God. — "Many people succeed in mastering it [the 
mood of utter dissatisfaction and despair which occasionally sweeps 
over us] by deliberately thinking of God- — His wisdom, His power, 
His unfailing care. Even if they have mismanaged their responsi- 
bilities He has not mismanaged His. Even if they have come to 
the end of their resources He has not come to the end of His. They 
can cast their burden upon Him, rely on His greatness, rest in His 
unfailing care. In the end He will bring things out right. 'The 
eternal God is thy refuge: underneath are the everlasting arms.' 
Who can compute the amount of strength and courage those words 
have given mankind? 'Cast thy burden on the Lord: He shall 
sustain thee.' Numberless men and women, bewildered and dis- 
couraged by situations they cannot manage, have fought off the 
mood of utter despair by repeating this old verse. It is the thought 
of God — His wisdom, His power, His unfailing care — which gives 
them strength enough to regain their normal self-control." (James 
Gordon Gilkey, Managing One's Self, pp. 94-95. Used by permis- 
sion of Macmillan Co., publishers.) 

QUESTIONS FOE THE EEADEE 

1. Are you willing to check yourself by answering the questions 
for evaluating mental health given on page 127? Do your answers 
reveal any condition that calls for correction? 

2. What is your reaction to the view that worry is a habit which 
has been learned by practice and which, therefore, can be unlearned? 



THE MENTAL HEALTH OE ADULTS 141 

3. Have any of your friends ever confided in you about their 
excessive fears? Do you think Dr. Oliver's counsel (Source Mate- 
rial No. 1) would have helped them? Why? Why not? 

4. Why do many persons develop feelings of inferiority? What 
is the healthy and Christian way of handling these feelings? 

5. Give examples of persons who have effectively handled their 
handicaps (a) by overcoming them or (b) by finding wholesome 
compensations for them. 

6. Consider your relations with your associates at the church or 
elsewhere. Where you have experienced friction, would any of the 
suggestions of the text, if followed, have helped the situation? 

7. Ln the light of the discussion of religion and mental health, 
how do you account for the mental or nervous breakdown of some 
earnest Christians? 

QUESTIONS FOR GROUP DISCUSSION 

1. Of the above list, use questions 2, 4, 5, and 7. 

2. Discuss: Right and wrong attitudes toward the mentally ill. 
Competent doctors say a highly respected church leader is suffering 
from a manic-depressive condition and should be sent to a mental 
hospital. Friends say that would be "dreadful." What attitude 
would you take? 

3. Discuss the statement of Dr. Sadler quoted on page 138. 

REPORTS AND INVESTIGATIONS 

1. Report on specific instances in which Christian faith has been 
an important factor in maintaining mental health. 

2. Report on provisions in your total church program for helping 
adults to maintain their mental balance in days of stress. 



For hosts of men and women, life is far from being 
what, in their better moments, they realize it ought 
to be. Their inadequate life-adjustments show the 
need of basic changes, both in thought and behavior. 
Cfl But it is not alone the need of the individual that 
calls for adult change. Consider the matter from the 
standpoint of society. How shall we ever solve the 
social problems that so threateningly confront us 
today, unless adult attitudes are altered? How can 
we build a better world without changed men and 
women? If un-Christian conditions must be con- 
doned merely because of dislike of change, what 
hope is there for the future of society? <J From the 
viewpoint of the church the need is even more im- 
perative. The church must accept its responsibility 
for the large numbers of adults at present untouched 
by its influence. It must also face the fact that within 
its own constituency there is an enormous gap be- 
tween the kind of adult personality it seeks to de- 
velop and that which actually makes up the rank and 
file of its membership. Is God a reality throughout 
adult experience? Does loyalty to the cause of 
Christ guide all daily conduct? Do adult Christians 
seek the solution of social problems in terms of the 
ideal of the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood 
of man? Is participation in the work of the church 
enthusiastic and skillful? Does a Christian philoso- 
phy of life enable adults to find their deepest satis- 
factions in devotion to the Christian enterprise? 
^ The program of the church calls for fundamental 
and far-reaching changes in life — changes never 
dreamed of by other institutions. How, then, can 
adult ways be changed? Can adults really learn 
new things? 



CHAPTER EIGHT 

THE CHANGING OF ADULT WAYS 

How Can Adult Thought and Conduct Be Changed? 

In life all about us there is abundant evidence that 
at least some adults can learn, that in many cases adult 
thought and conduct have been changed. Despite the 
prevalence of pessimistic views of the mind's deterioration 
with age, all of us have known men and women who, even 
late in life, have developed new interests, gained new in- 
sights, or acquired new skills. The records of the recent 
projects in the field of adult education are filled with in- 
stances of such learning, perhaps few of them more re- 
markable than that of the old colored washerwoman in the 
Denver Public Opportunity School, as reported by Pitkin. 
This negro woman had washed clothes all her life, and her 
hands were twisted with rheumatism; yet she wanted to be 
a milliner ! Despite her apparently overwhelming handi- 
caps, she succeeded in learning the milliner's art and de- 
veloped an excellent business making black-and-white bon- 
nets for deaconesses. 1 

In a certain group of thirty-nine adults who gave testi- 
mony concerning their own learning, it was found that one 
or more had learned after forty such activities as swim- 
ming, dancing, automobile driving, typewriting, eating 
olives or spinach; giving up tea, coffee, alcohol, or tobacco; 
reading or speaking a foreign language; using logarithms 
or playing chess; conquering fits of rage; modifying re- 
ligious views; and overcoming political or racial preju- 
dices. 2 



*Life Begins at Forty, p. 75. 

2 See Adult Learning, by E. L. Thorndike, pp. 107-23. 

143 



144 THE UNDERSTANDING OP ADULT WAYS 

Moreover, even fundamental life-changes have in many- 
cases taken place after adulthood was reached. Spiritual 
illumination or the moral change we call conversion, new 
insights lifting all of life to a higher plane, the achieve- 
ment of eminence after years of mediocrity — all these have 
been adult experiences. Wesley had passed his thirty -fifth 
birthday when his "heart was strangely warmed" at 
Aldersgate; Tolstoy at fifty found new meaning in life, and 
his discovery brought him stability and power; Channing 
Pollock, the dramatist, "after forty" changed the whole 
purpose of his writing from entertainment to the vivid por- 
trayal of great truth; Michael Pup in, who revolutionized 
long-distance communication, was at forty a relatively un- 
known teacher ; John Davey, the world-famed tree surgeon, 
was an illiterate farm laborer at twenty and a half- 
educated gardener at thirty; Sherwood Eddy and Stanley 
Jones were actively engaged in their life work when they 
learned to tap the spiritual resources which gave a new 
effectiveness to all of their Christian service. 

But, someone may say, these are the exceptional cases. 
Is it not still true that we are so much less able to learn in 
the adult years that, for the great majority of ordinary 
men and women, serious learning must be regarded as a 
practical impossibility ? 

PROFESSOR THORNDIKE'S RESEARCH 

It was in order to gain scientific evidence of the truth 
or the falsity of this opinion that Professor Thorndike and 
his associates, aided by a grant from the Carnegie Founda- 
tion, carried on their investigation of adult learning 
through two years of careful research. Experiments which 
included long periods of learning were conducted with 
various adult groups of low, medium, and high intelligence. 
The results of this adult learning, wherever possible, were 
compared with those obtained in similar fields by children 



THE CHANGING OF ADULT WAYS 145 

and young people. One of the most interesting findings of 
this study was that the period in life which gives the best 
returns in learning for the time spent is not childhood but 
early adulthood (in the twenties) and that "any age below 
45 is better than ages 10 to 14. ' ' 3 

The experiments also revealed that the decline in learn- 
ing ability in the thirties and forties is so slight that it can- 
not be regarded as a handicap of any consequence to the 
adult who desires to learn during this period. The decline 
— which is largely due to failure to keep in practice — is 
believed to be about one per cent per year up to the age 
of forty-five, and it is thought probable that from this age 
on to seventy it is not much more rapid. Professor Thorn- 
dike, therefore, gives this practical counsel : ' ' Nobody un- 
der forty-five should restrain himself from trying to learn 
anything because of a belief or fear that he is too old to 
be able to learn it. Nor should he use that fear as an ex- 
cuse for not learning anything which he ought to learn. ' H 
Much the same thing might also be said of those more ad- 
vanced in years. One may reasonably expect even at sixty- 
five ' ' to learn at least half as much per hour as he could at 
twenty-five and more than he could at 8 to 10. " 3 

These conclusions are of the utmost importance to all 
who are interested in the changing of adult ways — our own 
or those of others — in the direction of the great Christian 
objectives. 

DIFFICULTIES IN ADULT LEARNING 

But there is no advantage in failing to recognize the real 
difficulties that often stand in the way of the kind of adult 
learning we have in mind here — learning that is recon- 
structive, that means gaining new knowledge or skill, that 

3 Edward L. Thorndike, Adult Interests, p. 2. Used by permission of 
Macmillan Co., publishers. 

4 Thorndike, Adult Learning, p. 177. Used by permission of Mac- 
millan Co., publishers. 



146 THE UNDERSTANDING OF ADULT WAYS 

includes growth in insight and usefulness. If there were 
no such obstacles, it would be impossible to account for the 
traditional skepticism as to changing adults, and the ex- 
periments we have just considered would never have been 
launched. It is just as essential that we understand the 
difficulties of adult learning as it is that we get rid of 
erroneous ideas of its impossibility. Otherwise we shall 
not properly prepare ourselves to meet them. Most of 
these difficulties arise from our own habits of thought and 
action, though some are created by the character of our 
social and economic life. 

On the whole, there is obviously less opportunity to learn 
new things during our active adult years than during 
childhood and early youth, except for learning that is in- 
volved in our particular vocation. The time and energy 
of adults have often been so largely consumed by the ac- 
tivities of earning a livelihood or maintaining a home that 
the residue, if any, was naturally given to relaxation, 
recreation, or amusement. Certain trends of modern life, 
however, are steadily altering these conditions. In general, 
homemakers have increasing opportunity to acquire useful 
knowledge or skill, and limited hours of labor give to the 
worker extra time which, if he chooses, may be spent in 
constructive and educative pursuits. 

For most of us, the more serious obstacles to recon- 
structive adult learning are those over which we ourselves 
may exercise control. They are the interfering habits 
which we have developed and our lack of interest in learn- 
ing. We cannot blame our failure to learn on our decaying 
faculties for they are largely intact. Few readers of this 
book will be able to say that they are prevented from gain- 
ing new ideas and skills by outward circumstances. If we 
do not keep active those functions of the mind that belong 
to persons — thinking and learning, changing our ways, 



THE CHANGING OF ADULT WAYS 147 

acquiring new truths or skills — it is because we are held 
back by our own habits or our own inertia. 

INTERFERING HABITS 

Throughout life we are engaged in building up innumer- 
able habits of thought, feeling, and action; and by the time 
we reach, let us say, middle age we are equipped with 
elaborate systems of these routine responses. If they are 
of the right sort these are very helpful to us. We could 
not live efficiently without them. But for a variety of 
reasons, many of our habits may be such as to make us 
prone to act in faulty ways, and these will thus tend to 
keep us from doing the right thing. Habits of careless 
speech naturally make it more difficult for us to learn to 
speak correctly. Habits of fear and self-consciousness 
make us less able to learn to be trustful and poised. Our 
past evasive thought-habits may interfere to keep us from 
the realistic facing of facts. Some of us even allow our- 
selves to get into the habit of enjoying our disabilities, so 
that if our aches and pains were taken away from us, we 
should hardly know how to conduct ourselves. One of the 
most common hindrances to learning in later life is the 
learner's fear that his fellows will ridicule him for making 
the attempt "at his age." The habit of over-sensitiveness 
may thus impede our efforts to make desirable changes in 
our thought or conduct. 

Where there is a genuine desire to learn, these habits 
cannot prevent learning, but they can hinder it and make 
it difficult. Unless we face that fact we shall fail in many 
of our efforts to change our ways. On the other hand, our 
good habits, of which most of us have a considerable store, 
will prove of inestimable value to us as we endeavor to re- 
fine or modify them or to build upon them a superstructure 
of more elaborate skills. 



148 THE UNDERSTANDING OP ADULT WAYS 

The deepest reason for the relatively small amount of 
learning that is done in middle and later life is insufficient 
motivation — the lack of strong desire for change. But this 
we shall discuss more constructively as we review the con- 
ditions under which adult learning may go forward most 
effectively. 

CONDITIONS OF EFFECTIVE LEARNING 

What, then, are the conditions of effective adult learn- 
ing? Underlying everything else, there is the need of 
"right thinking," by which is meant correct ideas about 
the particular task in hand, about the possibility of adult 
learning, and about life itself. As we seek to change adult 
ways, our whole philosophy of life has a bearing upon even 
the smallest undertaking. If we think of our world as 
wholly dominated by physical force and immutable law, so 
that there can be no thrilling possibilities for us, we are 
likely to be held back and made impotent. If, on the other 
hand, we make room in our thinking for the personal and 
the spiritual; if God is in our scheme of things, not merely 
as an item in our creed, but as a creative and empowering 
factor in our lives; then we shall take up the task with 
eagerness and faith. It will still require our clearest think- 
ing, our best understanding of its details, and a proper 
estimate of ourselves; but though the work proves arduous 
and demands steady and persistent effort, there will always 
be available those resources of the spirit that strengthen 
and uphold. 

Right thinking will mean getting rid of all unwholesome 
attitudes : fear of what others may say, superstition about 
the decay of the mind, belief that it is possible to accom- 
plish anything without effort if we only have faith, morbid 
introspection and concentration on past failures, and other 
similar hindrances. In place of these we shall put well- 
formed purposes and clear thinking as to what we want 



THE CHANGING OP ADULT WAYS 149 

to do, why we want to do it, and what is involved in carry- 
ing it through to completion. 

The conditions of effective learning involve more than 
the holding of certain ideas in the mind; they require, also, 
the presence of a genuine desire to learn. How may this 
desire be aroused and strengthened? 

THE DESIRE TO LEARN 

Some adults manage to retain the kind of interest in 
learning that is characteristic of normal childhood. The 
child in much of what he learns is motivated by the funda- 
mental craving for a new experience, with its eager curi- 
osity and desire to "find out things." And adults who are 
able to keep this eagerness of spirit throughout life have 
no special problems in learning new things. 

For most men and women, however, this natural interest 
in learning seems to weaken as the years pass. Something 
happens to it along the way. It is, perhaps, too easily 
satisfied by early ' ' gulps ' ' of knowledge or it is too greatly 
restricted by the narrowing influences of our work. What- 
ever the cause, the "raw" desire to learn is not very 
vigorous in the average adult. But most men and women 
do desire many things which cannot be had without gaining 
new knowledge and skill, and because of this, their own 
interests and purposes may serve to awaken the desire to 
learn. When what is to be learned is seen as an aid in the 
attainment of our own desired ends, the necessary motiva- 
tion of learning is often found. 

There are many situations in which we need to remind 
ourselves of this fact. Suppose an adult has been stirred 
by an eloquent sermon to consider some possible modifica- 
tion of his life. He says in undertones as he leaves the 
church service: "Yes, I must do that. I am going to 
change my ways." Perhaps it is the habit of ill-tempered 
dealing with his associates or of inconsiderate behavior in 



150 THE UNDERSTANDING OF ADULT WAYS 

the home that he would change. Or it may be something 
quite different : he would become better informed about the 
Christian enterprise by reading some of the best books on 
Christianity in the world today or he would enrol in the 
next leadership school. One of these possible courses of 
action, let us say, runs through his mind. He thinks about 
it a little and may even mention it to a friend. But it 
is soon forgotten, and the task of learning the new mode 
of behavior is never seriously undertaken. 

"Why does this happen? The reason is that the con- 
templated change was not linked with any of the individ- 
ual's strongly-felt wants or well -formed purposes. There 
was, after all, no genuine desire to learn, and thus he had 
no driving power to urge him on in his learning. If, how- 
ever, he had seen clearly that the changed behavior would 
help satisfy his need for recognition or for fellowship or his 
desire to be more useful in the church, he would have given 
himself more whole-heartedly to it and would thus have 
made his learning more effective. 

INTERESTING OTHERS IN LEARNING 

This principle is to be kept in mind, also, when we are 
seeking to interest others in learning. For them, too, the 
desire to learn must be awakened by appealing to some 
existing need, desire, or purpose. One of the most widely- 
accepted tenets in the creed of modern education — often 
honored more in the breach than in the observance — is that 
the place to begin our teaching is where our pupils are now 
living. To motivate adult learning we must use the desires 
and purposes that are actually functioning for those with 
whom we deal. In one case it may be the desire for se- 
curity, for power, or for social approval. In another in- 
stance, it may be a developed interest in some field of 
knowledge or sphere of usefulness. In almost any dealing 
with men and women, the ' ' want for a feeling of personal 



THE CHANGING OF ADULT WAYS 151 

worth" can be depended on to motivate action, if it is not 
too obviously and directly appealed to. 5 If by the proposed 
course of action (reading a book, enrolling in an evening 
school, correcting a faulty habit, accepting a position of 
leadership in the church), the adult believes he can be more 
useful and thus can come to fuller self-realization — "feel 
himself to be more of a personal self among personal 
selves" — he is likely to be favorably inclined toward the 
enterprise. 

Where men and women have intelligently and whole- 
heartedly dedicated themselves to some great cause, the 
desire to learn whatever will make possible their larger con- 
tribution to its ongoing is already latent in their life- 
purpose. It may need to be lifted more clearly into con- 
sciousness; but there will be no difficulty, once the vision 
is clear, in making it an attractive driving force in their 
lives. And if the cause to which they are devoted is the 
Christian enterprise, this will be even more true. It is 
of the very essence of the Christian movement to enlist 
learners under Christ and to keep them learning new ways 
of thinking and doing until personalities become Christlike 
and society becomes the Kingdom of God. 

THE ADOPTION OF WAYS AND MEANS 

A third condition of effective adult learning is the adop- 
tion of suitable ways and means for carrying on the par- 
ticular project we have undertaken. The methods and pro- 
cedures that are most effective will differ according to the 
circumstances and the kind of learning to be done. No 
set formula that will fit all situations can be given, and 
the detailed discussion of possible techniques will have to 
be left to books in the field of teaching methods. But it 
must be made clear that the selection of the proper ways 

6 See The Psychology of Dealing with People, by Wendell White. 
Macmillan Co., New York, 1927. 



152 THE UNDERSTANDING OF ADULT WAYS 

and means of producing changes in adults is often a factor 
of very great importance in bringing our efforts to a suc- 
cessful outcome. Where the desire to learn is strong and 
the attitude of mind is wholesome, success may sometimes 
be achieved despite the use of faulty methods; but it is also 
true that the use of these inadequate methods may so 
hinder learning that the undertaking can only end in 
failure. 

Consider the case of an adult who is endeavoring to learn 
some new form of behavior. It might be speaking in public 
or overcoming the habit of worry or making oneself more 
friendly and approachable or taking a more active part in 
the efforts of the church to Christianize society. Assum- 
ing the kind of right thinking we have described and the 
presence of a genuine desire to learn, there is still the 
necessity of some definite plan of action if the learning is 
to be effective. 

In general, any such plan will include three items: (1) 
setting up specific objectives — positive ideas of the type 
of behavior desired — which are to be kept constantly in 
mind; (2) provision for definite and continuous practice 
of the new way of life; and (3) provision for the handling 
of interfering habits in a way that will lead eventually to 
their elimination. Failure to do any one of these things 
may lead to negative results. 

The objectives set up should be reached by clear thinking 
as to what one wants and what is necessary to achieve it, 
and they should be in the form of specific changes to be 
made in both thought and conduct. The adult will know, 
for example, that if he is to become more friendly he must 
do many things he has not been doing. He must "put 
himself out" to perform friendly acts, share more largely 
in social activities, take the initiative at times in making 
conversation, be a good listener, and try to understand the 



THE CHANGING OF ADULT WAYS 153 

viewpoints of those with whom he disagrees. These and 
other attainable ideals he will set before himself. 

But there is no learning without practice, and success 
in the changing of adult ways will depend upon the steady 
performance of the acts required by these ideals. Practice 
must be seriously undertaken and persistently carried out. 
We accept this as a truism when we have in mind the learn- 
ing of such skills as playing a musical instrument or per- 
forming on a trapeze but we often overlook the fact that 
the higher forms of everyday living likewise call for per- 
sistent practice. Thus Henry C. Link complains of some 
of his clients that they ' ' believed in friendship . . . but not 
in the social activities and personal sacrifices by which 
friends are made. They believed in a happy marriage but 
not in the many acts by which it is achieved. They be- 
lieved in their abilities and aptitudes but not in the routine 
drudgery by which superiority in any vocation is at- 
tained. ' ' 6 

HANDLING INTERFERING HABITS 

In almost any adult learning it will be necesary, also, to 
provide for the proper handling of interfering habits. 
What can we do about them when they seem to block us 
from the achievement of our goals? 

The worst possible thing we can do about them is to be 
afraid of them, so that we become emotional whenever we 
think of them or give way to them; yet this attitude of 
fear is not uncommon in adult learners. Our habitual 
forms of behavior seem so natural that we come to feel as 
if we "must" act that way. It may seem to us that our 
habits are the impulsions of some mysterious force instead 
of being, as is really the case, simply ways of acting that 
have become well established through practice. We set out 

6 Henry C. Link, The Return to Religion, p. 20. Used by permission 
of Macmillan Co., publishers. 



154 THE UNDERSTANDING OF ADULT WAYS 

to learn something new, but before we have gone very far 
the lure of the old familiar way draws us aside "just as 
we feared." Then, instead of frankly recognizing what 
has happened and deliberately taking up the new course 
again, we become emotional. Perhaps we indulge in self- 
accusation and say that it is useless to try or that we know 
we cannot do anything but follow the beaten path. 

Our interfering habits need to be recognized and under- 
stood and then, to a large extent, they should be ignored. 
If we keep on quietly and steadily with our practice of the 
right course, some lapses into the old way need not greatly 
disturb us. We shall not allow them to stir our emotions 
into a panic nor to cause our actions to become strained 
and labored. In learning to shoot at a target with bow and 
arrows, we do not expect every shot to hit the bull's-eye. 
We are happy if, by persistent practice over a period of 
time, fewer of our shots are "wide," more are "close," 
and some squarely hit the mark. The learning of new 
forms of behavior is not dissimilar. As one system of 
habits becomes stronger, the other grows weaker until, in 
the end, the new way of life has been substituted for the 
old. 

CHANGING GROUP ATTITUDES 

We have noted briefly the ways and means that might be 
used in one kind of adult learning. There are many other 
kinds. Instead of the changing of individual behavior we 
may be seeking to bring about changes in the habits and 
attitudes of a group. That is often the situation faced in 
our church life. We frequently find adult classes or other 
adult groups that have fallen into routine ways of thinking 
and doing which have become so firmly established that any 
proposal of change is met with almost solid opposition. 
The program of a certain adult class had been planned 
originally to meet a need peculiar to the community which 



THE CHANGING OF ADULT WAYS 155 

the church served. After some years the character of the 
community changed and the need no longer existed, although 
other and different needs were apparent. Some members 
of the group, however, were solidly against any modifica- 
tion of the class program. 

There are many ways in which changes in group atti- 
tudes may be brought about, but they are not all of equal 
validity as methods of adult education. Everyone knows 
in these days how effective certain forms of propaganda 
may be in modifying the group mind. We have seen the 
spirit and attitude of whole nations almost completely 
changed by this means. Because such propaganda has in- 
volved the distortion of facts, and even pure fabrication, 
we have come to limit our use of the word largely to this 
reprehensible type. But propaganda does not necessarily 
involve deception or even false emphasis. It is the propaga- 
tion of an idea with fervor and it has its legitimate uses. 
Who has not marveled at the change wrought in some dis- 
couraged congregation by the coming of a minister whose 
enthusiasm and inspiring personality made it easy to be- 
lieve what he said and to do what he proposed ? 

DEMOCRATIC GROUP-THINKING 

There is a place for the use of fervor in changing group 
attitudes; but the greater need is for a more educational 
method — the way of creative and democratic group-think- 
ing. Propaganda even at its best involves the weakening 
of the critical field of the mind and the centering of at- 
tention on ideas and courses of action that are never very 
far removed from our primary urges. In the process of 
group-thinking, on the other hand, conflicting ideas are 
deliberately faced and effort is made to arrive at conclu- 
sions that embody the best thought of the participants or, 
if such agreement cannot be reached, to determine the pre- 
cise location of the differences and to understand the 



156 THE UNDERSTANDING OF ADULT WATS 

reasons for them. Participation in this kind of group 
activity, under skilled leadership, is likely to produce 
changes not only in the thinking of individuals but also 
in the total attitude of the group. The whole body is en- 
gaged in a creative task, facing facts, exploring possibili- 
ties, and seeking fruitful outcomes, and the resultant think- 
ing will be different from the anticipations of any single 
member. 

This is an effective way of modifying group attitudes, 
and there is good reason why it should be used increasingly 
in adult education in the church. If any important and 
permanent changes are to be effected in adult ways, the 
adults, after all, must begin where they now are and them- 
selves determine the forward course they will take. They 
will need inspiration and guidance but not dictation as 
they control their experience toward the Christian objec- 
tives. Sometimes the steps taken will carry them farther 
than the vision of the leader anticipated; but if at first 
they fall short of this goal, the leader will know that they 
are ' ' on the march ' ' and that their gains will be the more 
permanent because they have been intelligently and deliber- 
ately made. 

THE NEED OF SOCIAL SUPPORT 

One other conditon of effective learning can be but 
briefly mentioned, although it is a matter that needs the 
thoughtful attention of all adults. The changing of adult 
ways would be made much easier if the social setting in 
which it is attempted were such as to stimulate and en- 
courage it. Men and women are often kept from learning 
new things largely because "it isn't done," and many of 
them would be stirred to overcome their hampering in- 
hibitions by an environment which took it for granted that 
they would keep on growing. Thorndike suggests that if 
it were customary for mature and old people "to learn 
to swim and ride bicycles and speak German," the diffi- 



THE CHANGING OF ADULT WAYS 157 

culty of gaining these skills would, no doubt, be less than 
it is now felt to be. This would be true, also, of other 
types of learning. If church and society more generally 
encouraged the continuance of learning, progress in this 
direction might be very rapid, and we could expect far 
greater advances in the improvement of adult life. 

Wherever the church has an adequate program for its 
older members, it has a unique opportunity to provide a 
strong stimulus to adult growth. As it regularly enlists 
men and women in its educational work, it creates a social 
situation which will stimulate others to keep on learning. 
It is of the very nature of the church to function in this 
manner. Is it not a special environment for the encourage- 
ment of greater faith and nobler living? "The Church 
came into being," Glover declares, "through the instinct 
that held together, and bound more and more closely to- 
gether, those men and women for whom Christ had meant 
new life." 7 By this closely knit fellowship they inspired 
one another to continue in "the Way" and strengthened 
one another in their high resolves. 

Through all the changes of two millenniums this has been 
the distinguishing mark of the true church. Shall not the 
church today bind more closely together those men and 
women who seek to follow the implications of the "new 
life" into their twentieth-century experience? Encourag- 
ing them in this venture, will it not become a fellowship 
of learners whose pursuit of Christian meanings and meth- 
ods will continue until all of life is brought into harmony 
with the spirit and way of Christ ? These are the ends the 
church must seek as it inspires and guides the changing of 
adult ways. 

SOURCE MATERIAL 

1. The chance to change. — There are opportunities which, as the 
poet reminds us, "come not back." "But are they the only oppor- 

'T. R. Glover, The Nature and Purpose of a Christian Society, p. 46. 
Harper and Bros., publishers, New York. 



158 THE UNDERSTANDING OF ADULT WAYS 

tunities life puts before us? Even a superficial study of human 
experience discloses the heartening fact that there are many other 
chances which come not once but many times. It is the recognition 
of this situation, the realization that even if we have missed some 
opportunities there are others which are constantly reappearing, that 
has saved many middle-aged and elderly people from the despair 
into which older people readily fall. What now are the chances that 
come more than once? What are the recurrent opportunities of 
life? Perhaps the most obvious is the chance to change our habits. 
. . . Another is the chance to discover and develop our own latent 
abilities. . . . Still another is the opportunity to make ourselves 
of help to other people, and in so doing win the happiness that in- 
variably accrues from kindly action." (James Gordon Gilkey, You 
Can Master Life, pp. 169, 173, 178. Macmillan Company, New York, 
1935.) 

2. Procedure in group discussion.- — The procedure for cooperative 
thinking is outlined in many current works on teaching method. The 
essential steps involve: (a) Group consideration of some specific 
situation, problem, or need, with effort to get at the important facts 
and to discover just where the difficulties lie; (&) proposals by 
members of the group of possible solutions or outcomes, allowing 
free expression of differences of opinion and noting where the dif- 
ferences concern matters of fact; (c) discussion of the various pro- 
posals and the correction (where possible) of errors as to fact; 
(d) formulating whatever conclusion can be reached by the group 
as to the best way of meeting the situation or solving the problem. 
When the outcome involves a course of action to be carried through, 
an essential part of the procedure will be the adoption of means for 
putting the plan into effect and, later on, the evaluation of what 
has been done. (For a brief manual, see Group Work With Adults 
Through the Church, International Council of Religious Education, 
15e. Consult also: H. S. Elliott, The Process of Group Thinking, 
Association Press, New York, 1928; E. F. Zeigler, The Way of 
Adult Education, Chap. IV, Westminster Press, Philadelphia, 1938.) 

3. The spirit of group discussion. — The procedure of the Lake 
Geneva Conference (1936) of the United Christian Adult Movement 
was described as follows: "These groups were engaged in a 'crea- 
tive' task. They were facing 'realistically' and ' openmindedly' 
great current issues of life. They were 'seeking,' 'discovering,' 
'exploring,' 'experimenting,' 'repenting,' 'confessing,' 'making 
commitment,' 'sharing'. . . . The procedure throughout was designed 
to embody democracy, universal participation, utmost frankness in 
self-expression and interchange of views. . . . Uniformity of opinion 
or conviction was never assumed as the necessary basis of warm 
Christian fellowship. Rather, the living experience of actual Chris- 
tian fellowship was assumed as the basis of mutual spiritual enrich- 



THE CHANGING OF ADULT WAYS 159 

ment and unity through the very reality of differences in background, 
viewpoint, and opinion." (Report of the Lake Geneva Conference, 
p. 20. United Christian Adult Movement. Copyright, International 
Council of Eeligious Education. Used by permission.) 

QUESTIONS FOE THE EEADEE 

1. Why does Professor Coe describe as "a pernicious error" the 
notion that the time for getting our education is childhood and youth 
and the time for using it is adulthood? 

2. Outside your vocation, have you done any systematic study, 
made any important changes in your thinking, or acquired any new 
skills since you "settled" into adult life? Is the condition re- 
vealed by your answer quite satisfactory to you? What can be done 
about it? 

3. What changes in the program of the church are suggested by 
Professor Thorndike's studies of adult learning? Why? 

4. Have you ever said of some specific habit, "Yes, I am going 
to change my ways"? Was your purpose carried through to com- 
pletion? Why? Why not? How many of the "conditions of effec- 
tive learning" were present in your case? 

5. What is the difference between "propaganda" and "teach- 
ing ' ' ? Which should be the more fundamental in the program of 
the church? Why? 

6. Eead Source Material No. 3. Would you feel at home in a 
group such as is there described? Why? Why not? If your an- 
swer is No, does that fact suggest the desirability of any change 
of attitude on your part? 

7. Do you know men and women who have been kept from learn- 
ing things they would like to learn because of feeling that they 
were too old or that it would be unconventional to make the at- 
tempt? How might the church help such adults to a fuller life? 

8. Are there any needed improvements in the program of your 
church which are hindered by negative group attitudes? In the 
light of the matters discussed in this chapter, make some proposals 
for correcting the situation. 

QUESTIONS FOE GEOUP DISCUSSION 

1. Questions 1, 3, 5, and 7 above would lend themselves to group 
discussion. 

2. Discuss the place of democratic group-thinking in the work 
Of the church. Where, specifically, might this kind of thinking be 
used to best advantage? 

EEPOETS AND INVESTIGATIONS 

1. Eeport on the procedure for group discussion. See references 
in Source Material No. 2. 

2. Eeport on "churches where adults really learn" or on "sig- 
nificant cases of adult learning." 



For life to be rich and full it must bring to the in- 
dividual the satisfaction of desires. Whether we are 
moved by the fundamental drives or by our de- 
veloped interests and purposes, we are seeking and 
striving for something. There are things we want. 
If we cease to desire, we cease to live. <J But our 
desires are not all of the same order, and there are 
wide differences in the ways in which they may be 
satisfied. If a group of older adults should be asked 
what periods of their lives had brought them the 
most satisfaction, the answers might be an interest- 
ing indication of the way life has unfolded for them. 
How many would say that they had a better time in 
childhood than they have had since? Or in adoles- 
cence? Or in early adulthood? Or middle life? 
tjj Before one could properly make answer, thought 
would have to be given to the standard of values 
one would use, and this would involve consideration 
not only of the amount of satisfaction life had 
brought, but of its quality as well. If there have 
been thrills, the question to be raised is not simply 
How many? but also What kinds? ^ The condi- 
tions of life may create real problems for adults, but 
there is no inherent reason why adulthood should 
not be rich in its own satisfactions. If the meaning 
of life is rightly conceived as opportunity for spirit- 
ual growth, the values of the adult period should 
make up in quality for what they lack in intensity, 
and life should become richer and more meaningful 
with the passing years. What are some of the 
values we should expect to find in life even after the 
halfway mark is passed? What are the higher 
satisfactions of the adult years? 



CHAPTER NINE 

THE ENEICHMENT OF ADULT LIFE 

What Are the Higher Satisfactions of the Adult Yearsf 



T 



HE STIMULUS OF SATISFYING WORK HAS OFTEN BEEN 

proclaimed one of the most genuine satisfactions of adult- 
hood. Under the conditions of modern life, however, it so 
often happens that the work by which we earn our liveli- 
hood does not offer us opportunities for the investment of 
our full powers. If it does, we are fortunate indeed, for 
then our daily occupation will itself bring a large measure 
of satisfaction and increase our sense of personal worth. 
But the number of adults whose work provides a full out- 
let for their higher abilities is relatively small and in the 
light of present trends in industry is likely to become even 
smaller. It has been estimated that of the thousands of 
ways in which men earn bread and butter, only about 
one in a hundred provides real opportunities for self-ex- 
pression and creative work. After calling in review the 
millions of miners, farm hands, clerks, servants, steelmill 
workers, machine operators, brakemen, conductors, firemen, 
carpenters, plumbers, and others whose work leaves little 
room for creativity, Pitkin concludes: "So, out of 48,- 
832,589 Americans gainfully employed, you are not going 
to find more than one or two million who can develop 
themselves in and through their bread and butter jobs." 1 

A PHILOSOPHY OF WORK 

Recognizing fully the fact that the daily task of millions 
can be little more than personality-destroying drudgery, 
unless creative interests are found outside of the vocations, 

'Walter B. Pitkin, Life Begins at Forty, pp. 81-82. McGraw-Hill 
Book Co., New York. 

161 



162 THE UNDERSTANDING OF ADULT WAYS 

it is still true that many men and women would discover 
new values in their work by taking a different attitude to- 
ward it. Our work may exhaust our strength by its de- 
mands upon muscular energy or strain our nerves by its 
sheer monotony; but if it is seen as a necessary part of the 
total work of the world, and we recognize that our con- 
tribution helps forward, even by an infinitesimally small 
amount, the purposes that underlie all of life, we have a 
philosophy of work that will sustain us in many an hour of 
drudgery. Men want from their work, not simply the 
exercise of mind or muscle, nor alone the economic rewards 
that it brings; they want to feel that it makes a difference 
in the world's life, that it contributes something of com- 
fort or of necessity to men, that it builds something, in- 
creases happiness, or improves human relationships. 
Whether it is recognized as such or not, it is the "service 
motive ' ' that gives this quality to our work. And in many 
more vocations than we commonly think, men and women 
of insight and purpose have found these satisfactions. We 
have known a caretaker of a grade-school building who 
lifted his "job" almost to the level of a profession, a cab- 
inetmaker who took legitimate pride in the work he had 
done on the modernized shop-fronts of enterprising busi- 
ness houses, and a policeman on traffic duty whose routine 
tasks were touched with glory because of his interest in the 
welfare of every boy and girl who passed him on the way 
to school. 

But besides our bread-winning activities, there are other 
forms of work which often offer large opportunities as out- 
lets for our abilities and interests. Many an idle woman 
has been saved from neurosis by becoming interested in 
some form of welfare work. Many a toiler, whose daily 
round could hardly be lifted above the level of drudgery, 
has found real satisfaction in his evening activities in some 
civic, political, or philanthropic undertaking. 



THE ENKICHMENT OE ADULT LIFE 163 

WORKING IN THE CHURCH 

Service in the church offers another alluring possibility 
of this sort, and when it is undertaken with intelligence 
and devotion it brings large returns in personal satisfac- 
tion. It is interesting to find that in a test of ten thousand 
adults, those who shared in the life of the church had 
"significantly better personality traits than those who did 
not" and that a modern psychologist urges participation in 
church work, even if it does not at first appeal to us, as a 
means to a more successful and fuller life. 2 

Many types of leaders are needed to carry forward the 
program of the church : elders, deacons, stewards, trustees, 
teachers, counselors, department principals, committee 
members, supervisors of missions or of social work, secre- 
taries, treasurers, visitors, and the like. In almost any 
congregation there are openings where really significant 
service might be rendered that are never filled, because 
men and women fail to respond to these calls for the in- 
vestment of their talents. Moreover, the places of leader- 
ship that are "accepted" are often very inadequately 
filled, because those who accept them fail to prepare them- 
selves to do the work with wisdom and effectiveness. With 
due regard to the hosts of leaders who do their work with 
devotion and skill, the number of those who fall short be- 
cause of their small personal investment in the enterprise 
must be quite large. 

Yet there are rich values for the individual in the en- 
thusiastic and intelligent leadership of church activities. 
His ultimate motive will reach far beyond these personal 
satisfactions, but they are there, nonetheless, for those who 
will make the necessary investment of time and talent. 
The acceptance of our rightful share of responsibility, asso- 
ciation with people of different types but of common pur- 
ree The Return to Religion, by Henry C. Link, pp. 106, 33-34. 



164 THE UNDERSTANDING OF ADULT WAYS 

poses, doing something for others without thought of mone- 
tary reward, partnership with our fellows in worthy causes, 
the sacrifice of immediate pleasure for a more remote good, 
the feeling of being of use outside of family and vocation, 
the effort to understand others and to get along with them 
— these experiences call us out of ourselves and help to 
keep us normal and spiritually healthy. They are among 
the higher satisfactions which men and women with quali- 
ties of leadership may find through sharing actively in the 
work of the church. 

LEADERS AND FOLLOWERS 

A fact too often overlooked, however, is that the church 
needs followers quite as much as it needs leaders, and that 
the zest of participation in its program should be felt not 
merely by the few who lead but also by those who, for one 
reason or another, fit better into the larger group of the 
rank and file. Most of the values which we have said may 
be found by the good leader will be discovered likewise by 
the good follower, without whom it would be utterly im- 
possible for any enterprise of the church to be carried to 
completion. 

The follower is not necessarily less intelligent or less 
unselfish than the leader. He may, even more than others, 
lose himself in devotion to the institution and labor with- 
out thought of reward. But he has his reward in this 
very loyalty; for where it is strong, it keeps him from un- 
wholesome preoccupation with his own mental states and 
from the likelihood of ego-inflation or of self-centered 
brooding. The good follower will not allow his loyalty to 
become blind, but he will know how to subordinate his 
thinking to that of the group without any feelings of hurt 
pride or loss of self-respect. No cooperative enterprise can 
be successfully carried on unless it has the support of men 
and women with these qualifications. The adult who gives 



THE ENRICHMENT OF ADULT LIFE 165 

this kind of loyalty to the church receives much more than 
he gives and must often be counted among its most useful 
members— those steady, dependable, and willing workers 
who contribute in such large measure to the permanence 
and stability of the institution. 

Many other forms of group experience offer adults the 
opportunity of working together in pursuits that will tax 
their abilities to the full. Opportunity schools, university 
extension departments, public libraries, leadership educa- 
tion in the church, agricultural extension, and other forms 
of adult education already enrol over twenty millions an- 
nually. In church or community, within their vocations or 
outside of them, most adults may find appealing enterprises 
that will provide the stimulus and excitement necessary to 
give zest to life and bring genuine satisfaction of some of 
the higher desires. 

All of life's rich values, however, are not to be had 
through strenuous endeavor. There is exhilaration in pur- 
suing a course that demands the utmost of muscle and 
brain and ever dares us to greater effort; but to try to 
live perpetually on this strenuous plane is to court dis- 
aster. If the attempt is made, our efforts will lag, our 
goals grow dim, and, exhausted in body and mind, we may 
discover that our behavior has become mechanical and life 
has lost significance. 

To restore the luster of life, or to maintain it and so 
keep ourselves from falling into this distressing state, we 
must be able to get rid of strain and tension, relax the 
muscles, bring repose to the mind, and re-create the spirit. 
This is essentially the role of play. 

THE ROLE OF PLAY 

Why should play be included among the higher satis- 
factions of the adult years'? Is it not a special preroga- 
tive of childhood and youth, and should we not leave it 



166 THE UNDERSTANDING OP ADULT WAYS 

behind when we take up the serious business of adult life 1 
Perhaps no reader of today will raise these questions, but 
they have often been asked in the past; and the attitudes 
they represent still linger in many minds, even if they do 
not find expression in words. Yet play in one or another 
of its many forms is an essential ingredient of the rich and 
satisfying life at any stage from babyhood to old age. And 
the kind of world in which adults live makes it more than 
ever necessary that they learn the value of those activities 
that re-create us by restoring our spiritual energy. 

The opportunities for adult recreation are numerous and 
varied. They cover a wide range from such " private" 
recreation as reading for enjoyment, painting pictures 
"for the fun of it," or pursuing a hobby, to those forms 
of play that involve participation in vigorous group ac- 
tivity like softball, volleyball, or other athletic contests. 
They include the conventional pastimes that have become 
almost universal features of our social and club life, but 
also such unconventional diversions as an evening of bril- 
liant conversation or a good hearty laugh. There are 
games in which we are participants, gaining release 
through the pleasurable activity of the game itself, and 
others in which we are onlookers, finding our recreational 
values in the excitement of the contest, the stimulus of the 
crowd, or the freedom from customary emotional inhibi- 
tions and constraints. Some forms of adult recreation re- 
quire the expenditure of large sums of money and so are 
available only to the few; others, including many of the 
most valuable, can be had at little cost. Home, church, 
community, state, and nation offer us recreational oppor- 
tunities. We may experience the restorative values of 
play through a quiet evening at home or a romp with the 
children in the basement; we may feel our spirits renewed 
by a drive through the state, the sight of the ocean, the 



THE ENRICHMENT OP ADULT LIFE 167 

lure of a mountain stream, or the reverent contemplation 
of the giant redwoods. 

WHAT ADULT PLAY NEEDS 

In general, adult play stands greatly in need of being 
personalized. Most of us are far too prone merely to 
follow the fashions in recreation and to limit ourselves 
to its more or less stereotyped forms. Golf and fishing are 
justifiably popular leisure-time activities. Football and 
baseball have a genuine appeal for millions who by a kind 
of vicarious participation gain release for their pent states 
of mind. The motion picture or the radio, if we use proper 
discrimination, can provide excellent entertainment for 
those hours when we want a quick and easy release from 
humdrum activities. But there is no good reason why 
these types of diversion should so completely dominate the 
recreational scene. Far more than is commonly done, men 
and women need to select from the wide range of possi- 
bilities the forms of play that are really suited to their 
own needs, ages, temperaments, and interests. They will 
take into account the expenditures of energy involved, 
knowing that in middle life it may be more important for 
us to conserve our strength than to expend it in too vigor- 
ous exercise. They will remember the values of real par- 
ticipation in recreational activities, so as to make sure 
that their play will be more than mere passive amuse- 
ment. And they will not be afraid to follow their own 
inclinations and tastes, even if they are thus led away 
from the beaten path. They will know that the very es- 
sence of play is that it is unprescribed — the activity of a 
free spirit moving toward ends which are felt to have 
value in themselves. 

This aspect of play requires emphasis. Some men take 
up their games as if they were under the same constraints 



168 THE UNDERSTANDING OF ADULT WAYS 

that they experience when they go into the shop or office. 
They perhaps throw the medicine ball around in the spirit 
of something done from a stern sense of duty to society. 
But true play, though it may require concentration and 
observance of rules, is carried on for the love of it. It is 
not engaged in for the sake of social prestige or even for 
such desirable ends as health and education. It is an end 
in itself. 

Of course, if we are wise we shall not ignore these other 
values. Many of them will greatly enrich our lives, and 
their contribution need not lessen, and may enhance, our 
enjoyment. Nevertheless, thought of other values is a sec- 
ondary consideration. Developing a flower garden, creat- 
ing some useful or artistic object at the lathe or the bench, 
taking part in choral or dramatic activities, pursuing a 
course in an evening school, sharing in a church recrea- 
tional program, talking for an evening with a stimulating 
friend — every one of these has been done by someone for 
the sheer joy of the doing. The best interests of adults, 
whose everyday life requires so much conformity to pat- 
terns, will not be served unless their play is very largely a 
free activity, engaged in for its own sake, which restores 
the human spirit by its direct appeal to the sense of worth. 

DEVELOPING LATENT INTERESTS 

Are there not many of us who have undeveloped inter- 
ests, of which we hardly ever speak, that might, if we 
should follow them, become a constant source of spiritual 
refreshment? Strong interfering habits, the economic 
struggle, or the influence of custom, may keep us from 
developing these latent interests, but in numberless cases 
they could be followed far and their development would 
bring rich rewards. One of the most complete collections 
of mineral specimens the writer has seen was made by a 






THE ENRICHMENT OF ADULT LIFE 169 

man in middle life who, without any formal scientific train- 
ing, knew the characteristics of the minerals like a geolo- 
gist and thrilled at the discovery of a new specimen. He 
had found in this pursuit an absorbing interest, entirely 
different from his everyday occupation and by means of 
it had gained release from the exactions of his business. 

Because in earlier life we may have had little chance to 
understand the fine arts, we are not as adults prevented 
from gaining a genuine appreciation of them nor even 
from gaining a measure of skill in their use. We are not 
thereby forced to listen to good music nor to look at great 
paintings with an air of boredom which proclaims the 
act to be an unwilling concession to the demands of cul- 
ture. We may find in these pursuits the same thrills that 
others have found and in time acknowledge them among 
the high satisfactions of the adult years. This will be the 
result if we overcome our inhibitions and engage in study 
of the fine arts with the purpose of enjoying them. 

Men and women who would know the higher satisfac- 
tions of the adult years will periodically turn aside from 
their tasks to engage in some of these freer recreative ac- 
tivities. How often they will do this, and for what periods 
of time, will have to be determined in the light of their 
own natures and needs, but by experiment they will dis- 
cover the proper alternation between work and play re- 
quired to keep their spirits fresh and their lives meaning- 
ful. They will not overlook the fact, however, that many 
play elements permeate our daily life and that these, too, 
if we have eyes to see and ears to hear, may be a source of 
constant enrichment. On the way to work we may glimpse 
a bit of beauty or talk with a friend. In factory or store 
some moments may be relieved by good humor or unex- 
pected courtesy. Through open windows at times may 
float the scent of flowers or the songs of birds. And in 



170 THE UNDEKSTANDING OP ADULT WAYS 

the kitchen, flagging spirits may be renewed by the sight 
of "Sunlight through a jar of marmalade. . . . An egg- 
yolk in a blue bowl." 3 

The adult years are so rich in possibilities of finding 
life's higher values, and the conditions of individuals vary 
so greatly, that this chapter can be little more than sug- 
gestive. Nevertheless, almost any group of adults will 
include a considerable number of men and women who 
would give high place to parenthood and family life as a 
source of enrichment and stimulation. Some of the activi- 
ties of the home are essentially play, others are work that 
may be tedious and exacting. But at their best they are 
all largely motivated by the kind of love that in the Chris- 
tian view is the supreme value of life. 

LOVE IN FAMILY LIFE 

Some kinds of love are exceedingly selfish, seeking merely 
to delight in the presence of their object or in the posses- 
sion of it. In its nobler forms, however, these elements, 
if present at all, are transcended, and the impelling power 
becomes an unselfish desire for the highest well-being of 
the beloved person. Despite the alarming increase in the 
number of broken homes and the many families that are 
kept intact for convenience or by economic necessity, it is 
probably true that the great majority of married persons 
come nearer to understanding the higher meaning of love 
through their family life than through any other phase 
of their experience. Perhaps that is why, after all, so 
many men and women find real happiness in the marriage 
relation. 

To say that the foundation of the home is unselfish love 
does not prohibit us from considering the genuine satisfac- 
tions which adults may find in and through their family 

3 M. K. W. Heicher, Living on Tiptoe, p. 56. Harper & Bros., 
publishers. Used by permission. 



THE ENRICHMENT OF ADULT LIFE 171 

relationships. The expression of any love brings some 
kind of pleasure, and when love is known in its more ele- 
vated forms, we experience some of those higher satisfac- 
tions that may so greatly enrich the adult years. 

Marriage and family life may provide an outlet for many 
of our strongest desires and our deepest emotional needs 
and thus aid in the maintenance of wholesome adult per- 
sonality. In the early years there will be the stimulus of 
mental effort as two personalities seek to adjust themselves 
each to the other, the satisfactions of physical intimacy, the 
joy in the presence of the beloved, the zest of planning 
hopefully for the future. With the coming of children, 
parental love, which is a normal impulse of both men and 
women, finds its outlet in the care and guidance of the 
young, and adult life is enriched and strengthened by the 
child's normal response to this love. As time goes on, par- 
ents may know the stimulus of contact with growing per- 
sonalities by trying to keep up with the widening interests 
of their children or to help them face the problems of their 
enlarging world. In the later years, though the children 
have left the home, there may be a continuing satisfaction 
in their achievements, a natural interest in our self -per- 
petuation through still another generation, and, if we are 
spared from the premature loss of husband or wife, a 
final period of quiet but rewarding companionship. 

This is not the whole of life, but it is one of its richest 
segments. True, hosts of adults are kept from the full 
realization of these values by forces beyond their control. 
Physical, social, and economic factors may disrupt home 
life or greatly increase its difficulties. But these forces 
can seldom wholly destroy it, and even under the most 
unfavorable circumstances, it often remains one of life's 
greatest goods. 



172 THE UNDERSTANDING OF ADULT WAYS 

FOES OF FAMILY LIFE 

Family life, nevertheless, may be threatened by other 
foes more largely psychological: unwholesome attitudes, 
inadequate purposes, and faulty practices. Groves has 
pointed out, for example, that men and women often ruin 
their chances of happiness in marriage by constantly look- 
ing outside of the family for enrichment, stimulation, and 
recreation and thus allowing the home to become dreary 
and commonplace — empty of all zestful experience. 4 A 
set purpose to make family life interesting and a willing- 
ness to seek ways and means of achieving this purpose are 
obviously necessary if the home is to be a constant source 
of the higher satisfactions. 

What may not be so readily understood is that ordinarily 
good parents whose purposes are unassailable may rob 
themselves, as well as the members of their families, of a 
great deal of happiness by their own unsound emotional 
attitudes. If either parent has failed to make satisfac- 
tory life-adjustment and is constantly troubled by the kind 
of inner discord described in Chapter Six, family life may 
even accentuate some of these conflicts and neurotic tend- 
encies and lead to the development of other unwholesome 
traits in the parent as well as in the child. Parents may 
project themselves upon their children and, seeing in the 
child's limitations the reflection of their own imperfec- 
tions, become over-anxious and fearful or over-critical and 
faultfinding. Thus they create an atmosphere of tension 
where there should be a spirit that inspires confidence and 
strengthens feelings of security. Again, a false pride or 
"inflated ego" may make a parent unwilling to recognize 
his own limitations and therefore be all too ready to rely 
upon arbitrary authority instead of reason before the re- 
lentless questioning of the young. 

4 Ernest R. Groves, Understanding Yourself, p. 247. Emerson Books, 
Inc., New York, publisher. 



THE ENKICHMENT OP ADULT LIFE 173 

Interestingly enough, many of the unwholesome atti- 
tudes displayed by parents arise from a defective love. 
The essence of parental love is the impulse to give, to care 
for and protect, to promote the welfare of the child. But 
if this desire is unwisely indulged, it may veer into a 
faulty love that is possessive rather than self -giving and 
that seeks to control and dominate the young for its own 
satisfaction rather than for their ultimate good. When- 
ever the possessive aspects of love are exaggerated in the 
home, whether in the relation of husband to wife, of wife 
to husband, or of parent to child, some of the higher values 
of family life will inevitably be lost. By seeking happiness 
too directly, we often fail to find it ; but a love that really 
forgets itself in the interests of another brings its full 
measure of content. The establishment of a home and its 
maintenance through the years is an opportunity to enrich 
our lives by learning something of the higher meaning of 
love. And without that experience, the Christian Scrip- 
tures declare we are nothing. 

ADJUSTMENTS OF THE UNMARRIED 

What is to be said of those adults who, for one reason 
or another, do not marry and who may have little chance 
to enjoy the intimate associations of family life? Two 
things, at least, may be said within the limits of this brief 
discussion. It is of the utmost importance, as we have 
insisted in other connections, that they face frankly their 
own situation and accept it as whole-heartedly as they can. 
If there is no real desire for marriage, that should be un- 
derstood. If there is still hope of marriage, let the desire 
be acknowledged to the self and let normal relations with 
the opposite sex, without impatience or self-consciousness, 
be maintained. If fear that marriage is out of the question 
conflicts with a real desire for it, a wholesome outlook will 
help the unmarried person to accept the situation, as he 



174 THE UNDERSTANDING OF ADULT WAYS 

would any other of life's trials, with courage and without 
self-pity or self-reproach. It is, of course, much easier 
to give these counsels than it would be to follow them, 
yet it is only by making this kind of life-adjustment that 
the personality of the unmarried adult can be kept normal. 
The other need of the unmated is for some healthy 
compensations for the loss of the satisfactions of family 
life. These may be found through any intense and high 
devotion that turns the emotional life outward. But the 
most direct, and for many adults the most rewarding, com- 
pensations come through intimate and affectionate contact 
with the young, such as is known by the devoted teacher 
of children, the counselor of a group of boys, the foster- 
parent of an unwanted child, the benefactor of some needy 
but ambitious boy or girl, the "big brother" or "big 
sister" of a neglected youth. A noted doctor and author 
whose books have helped many adults, married and un- 
married, to a better understanding of life is himself a 
bachelor and confesses to the loneliness of his single state. 
But in one of his most revealing chapters he tells of the 
high satisfactions that have come to him through investing 
in human lives. The young people he has helped have not 
all turned out well, but on the whole, they have brought 
him rich returns on his investments, and he can never re- 
pay them for the new interests and the new dreams of 
the future they have brought. "It is true," he writes, 
"that none of them can ever bear my name or call me 
'Father.' I have to be satisfied with a much less impor- 
tant title. But what pleases me most is that they call me 
'friend,' and there are real fathers aplenty who are not 
the friends of their own sons." 5 The unmarried have 
their peculiar problems, but they are not estopped from 
the exercise of a love that enriches by what it gives. 

B J. R. Oliver, The Ordinary Difficulties of Everyday People, p. 217. 
Alfred A. Knopf, publisher, New York. 



THE ENRICHMENT OP ADULT LIFE 175 

THE SUPREME VALUE 

Religion has been said to be, not a part of life, but 
life at its highest and best. All of our higher values — 
all of our worthy satisfactions, our loves and loyalties — 
may be incorporated in the Supreme Value to which we 
give our highest devotion. That is why Dr. Richard Cabot 
includes in his stimulating book, What Men Live By, a 
discussion not only of work, play, and love, but also of 
worship. One can readily see that something of a religious 
quality is given to experience when work is done in the 
spirit of service, or wholesome play restores our sense of 
life's worth, or the activities of the home are motivated by 
love. Religious devotion will not only embrace these and 
other loyalties and appreciations; it will also intensify 
them, unify them, and enlarge them. And if it is inspired 
by Christ, it will fuse them into a whole-hearted love of 
God — the Giver of every good gift. Life may then be lifted 
to the level of praise, and this conscious approach to God 
will itself add new values and enrichment to our expe- 
rience and will help to make and keep all of life significant. 

SOURCE MATERIAL 

1. What we want in our worlc. — "Among the points of a good job 
I shall name seven: (a) Difficulty and crudeness enough to call out 
our latent powers of mastery. (6) Variety so balanced by monotony 
as to suit the individual needs, (c) A boss, (d) A chance to 
achieve, to build something and to recognize what we have done. 
(e) A title and a place which is ours. (/) Connection with some 
institution, some firm, or some cause, which we can loyally serve. 
(g) Honorable and pleasing relation with our comrades in work. 
Fulfill these conditions and work is one of the best things in life." 
(Eichard C. Cabot, What Men Live By, pp. 27-28. Houghton, 
Mifflin Co., Boston, 1914.) 

' ' Through our work, if anywhere in all the universe, we may hope 
to become a person, meaningful and valuable — aye indispensable — 
to others." (Whiting Williams, Mainsprings of Men, p. 224. 
Charles Scribner's Sons, New York, 1925.) 

2. Creative sharing in play. — "There are two movements of life 
— the movement of acquisitiveness and the movement of creative 



176 THE UNDERSTANDING OF ADULT WAYS 

sharing. The significance of our free-time activities is that almost 
inevitably they place us in a sharing mood. Thus in hiking over 
the countryside, in athletic games, in music, painting, weaving, in 
the discussion of ideas, we issue from our isolation. We learn the 
fine art of companioning. And as we learn to companion, we tend 
to grow the habit of wishing for others the happiness that we our- 
selves enjoy." (H. A. Overstreet, A Guide to Civilised Loafing, 
p. 28. W. W. Norton & Co., New York, 1934.) 

3. Love: parental and possessive. — According to R. G. Gordon, 
love between two persons is made up of three distinguishable factors : 
(a) physical appetite; (&) possession — the impulse to take; (c) 
parental feeling — the impulse to give. ' ' In the attraction between 
parent and child, the third factor should be the dominant one. . . . 
If the parental impulse is ideal, the giving must be for the ultimate 
good of the object, and if carried on too long may subtly change 
to the second impulse of taking. . . . The mother who ties her 
children to her apron-strings in the belief that she is a perfect 
mother, and while protecting them from harm is really indulging 
her possessive impulse, is taking and not giving. . . . The tragedies 
that occur as a result of disproportion between the second and third 
factors are legion." (R. G. Gordon, Personality, p. 167. Harcourt, 
Brace & Co., New York, 1926.) 

"Love is very patient, very kind. Love knows no jealousy; love 
makes no parade, gives itself no airs, is never rude, never selfish, 
never irritated, never resentful; love is never glad when others go 
wrong, love is gladdened by goodness, always slow to expose, always 
eager to believe the best, always hopeful, always patient." (1 Cor. 
13:4-8, The Holy Bible: A New Translation, by James Moffatt. 
Harper & Bros., New York. Used by permission.) 

QUESTIONS FOR THE READER 

1. Under the present conditions, which of the periods of life 
usually brings to the individual the most genuine satisfaction? Why 
do you think so? Is the situation as it should be? Why? Why 
not? 

2. How well does your own work meet the requirements of "a 
good job" given in Source Material No. 1? If there are marked 
deficiencies, can you do anything to change your conditions or to 
change yourself so as to make your work more satisfying? 

3. How does your service to the church compare in amount and 
quality with that which you give to other organizations or agencies? 
Have you seriously considered the legitimate claims of the church 
upon your time and talent? 

4. Do you agree with the statement that "adult play stands 
greatly in need of being personalized"? How may the church help 
to improve the quality of its adult play? 



THE ENRICHMENT OF ADULT LIFE 177 

5. "What place do you think art (music, poetry, painting, drama, 
etc.) should have in the life of men and women of modest means? 
Why? 

6. How far have modern social conditions tended to destroy the 
values of family life? To what extent can these values, despite 
such conditions, be preserved within the family itself? 

7. How may the church through its total program recognize more 
fully and cultivate the values of parenthood and family life? 

QUESTIONS FOR GROUP DISCUSSION 

1. Questions 1, 4, 5, 6, and 7 above would probably be found 
suitable for discussion. 

2. Discuss Pitkin's statement quoted early in the chapter about 
the small proportion of workers who can develop themselves through 
their bread and butter jobs. 

3. Discuss "parental and possessive love." (Source Material 
No. 3.) If possible, give specific examples of each. 

REPORTS AND INVESTIGATIONS 

1. Report on church programs providing for (a) adult play and 
for (6) guidance in parenthood and family life. 

2. Report on the recreational activities of adults in your com- 
munity. Ask a number of adults to list their chief means of recrea- 
tion. How far do they follow conventional patterns? What unique 
or "personalized" forms of recreation are mentioned? 



Throughout the preceding chapters our discussion 
has aimed at the better understanding of adult ways. 
We have considered the kind of world in which men 
and women live, the effects of this world upon per- 
sonality and character, and the problems created for 
adults by the passing years. We have noted, also, 
how greatly people differ from one another, why 
they can really be understood only when considered 
as individuals, and how they come to be the kinds 
of persons they are. Our study of motives has 
helped to explain some of the vagaries as well as the 
excellencies of human conduct, and the discussion 
of conflict and mental health has shown the need 
of giving attention to maintaining a healthy mind. 
Finally, we have seen why it is that, though adults 
can learn about as well as the young, many of them 
fail to continue their learning, while others make 
such growth in the adult years that life maintains its 
significance to the end. ^ In all of this, we have but 
made a beginning. It is hoped that the chapters 
have awakened interests that may lead to further 
study and that the reader will desire to go far be- 
yond this book in his effort to understand his fellows 
and himself. Since self-knowledge, wisely acted 
upon, may lead to improvement in almost any realm 
of thought or conduct, the opportunities for growth 
offered by a pursuit of this kind are practically with- 
out limit. It will be helpful for the reader at this 
point to turn to "Some possibilities of adult 
growth," Source Material No. 2 at the end of this 
chapter, and check the items which he feels repre- 
sent his own needs. Some of these possibilities we 
shall consider in this concluding chapter as we face 
the question: How may adults keep on growing? 



CHAPTER TEN 

THE CONTINUANCE OF ADULT GROWTH 

How May Adults Keep on Growing? 

VJkowth, by an individual," has been defined as 
"taking something from the outside (the environment), 
making it a part of oneself .... and doing in the future 
something different because of it." 1 The statement as- 
sumes, of course, that what is taken from the environment 
and made a part of the self is thoroughly wholesome — that 
it is "food" which will build rather than tear down spirit- 
ual "tissue" — and a great deal also depends upon its 
proper "mastication." But how much hangs upon that 
third requirement! The real evidence of growth, after 
all, has not been given until something different is done. 
One of the clear distinctions between mere physical in- 
crease and the kind of personal growth we here have in 
mind is that, while the former may be little more than 
reflex activity, the latter can take place only as a result 
of our own self-activity and choice. 

The reader who has persevered in the study of this book 
up to this point and has shared in a class-group where 
discussion has been largely based upon it will, it is hoped, 
have discovered some things worth incorporating into his 
thought and life. Will they lead to growth? That is a 
question which an author cannot help but ponder as he 
comes to his last chapter. For after one has read and 
reflected upon the things that have engaged our attention 
in this book, whether or not growth takes place depends 

Quoted by Ruth Perkins in Program Making and Record Keeping, 
P. 24. Copyright, 1931. Reprinted by permission of the Woman's 
Press, New York. 

179 



180 THE UNDERSTANDING OP ADULT WAYS 

very largely upon whether one does "something different 
because of it. ' ' And that can be determined only by each 
person for himself. 

On which side, then, will the reader cast his vote ? If he 
does something different — and constructive — along the lines 
suggested by our discussion, he votes for growth. And if 
he chooses this course, he will not only help himself toward 
a fuller life but will also increase his ability to guide others 
in their personal development. What are some of the pos- 
sibilities of growth open to him? 

SELF-MANAGEMENT 

One of the most promising avenues of adult growth is 
the improvement of self -management through a better un- 
derstanding of the self, and our present study should en- 
able us to advance along this inviting path. The need for 
some improvement in this area of life is almost universal. 
Dwight L. Moody is reported to have confessed: "I have 
had more trouble with myself than with any other person 
I know"; and a recent writer — a thoughtful and expe- 
rienced minister — has added that most people, if honest, 
would make the same confession. 2 In order to manage 
ourselves properly, to keep free from the dominance of 
our moods, to gain inner control of thought and action, 
and to adjust ourselves happily and efficiently to our world, 
most of us need all the help we can get. 

But self -management depends, in part, upon self-knowl- 
edge. If a woman's nervousness is due to a condition 
which would be revealed by a physical examination, she 
cannot expect to gain mastery over it until the facts are 
known. If a man 's quick and sarcastic retorts have become 
thoroughly habitual, he will not be likely to gain self- 
control without some knowledge of how and why these 

8 James Gordon Gilkey, Managing One's Self, p. vii. Macmillan Co., 
publisher. 



THE CONTINUANCE OF ADULT GROWTH 181 

habits have been formed. The person in whose motivation 
self -display is a strong factor will not find the best adjust- 
ment to life without recognizing the presence of this desire. 
One who has brought trouble upon himself by an evasive 
life-attitude needs to understand his evasions if he would 
redirect them into worthy channels or learn to make a more 
direct attack upon his problems. There is at least as much 
need for understanding the psychological self as there is 
for knowing something of the physical body. Some in- 
sight into our own natures is essential to the proper man- 
agement of our lives. 

Adults may thus keep on growing by learning more 
about themselves. They may gain understanding of the 
trends of their personalities, their past adjustments to dif- 
ficulties, their undeveloped interests, the conditions of their 
physical health, their unique abilities, their deep-seated 
desires and motives, the kind of religious expression suited 
to their natures, their methods of dealing with inner con- 
flicts, and many other phases of their personalities. The 
check-lists in the Source Material may be found helpful in 
making this kind of study, and it can be pursued further 
by reading some of the appropriate books in the reference 
lists. It will lead to growth, however, only when it is car- 
ried on in a healthy, more or less objective manner and 
when the insights gained are deliberately acted upon. 

UNDERSTANDING OUR FELLOWS 

Another avenue of adult growth is opened when we seek 
a clearer understanding of our fellows and a fuller shar- 
ing of life with them. Obviously, self-knowledge is an 
aid to the understanding of others; but there is need, too, 
that we grow in sympathetic insight into character and 
personality by learning directly from the people we meet 
day by day. 



182 THE UNDERSTANDING OF ADULT WAYS 

For us to do this with profit, our aim must be, in truth, 
to understand our fellows rather than to pass judgment 
upon them. We are not lawyers striving for a verdict of 
"guilty" but friends and neighbors seeking to learn 
"what is in man" that we may, perhaps, aid someone else 
in the attainment of a fuller life. Or we ourselves may 
gain breadth from our efforts to understand others. Our 
attitude will not be condemnatory; it will be marked by 
sympathetic discernment. 

We shall need, too, the best guidance we can get from 
the experience of others who, in everyday relations or in 
specialized ways, have engaged in the study of human 
nature. That experience is available to us in the form 
of books, and if these are wisely selected they may be of 
great assistance in gaining insight into adult ways. The 
most helpful books are those that are neither too rigidly 
scientific nor merely inspirational. Tested knowledge is 
important, but life has to be lived now; and men and 
women have to be understood — as best we may — to make 
fruitful our present dealings with them. We cannot al- 
ways wait for the psychological laboratory to give a con- 
clusive demonstration; we often must take such partial 
knowledge as is available to us and use it with good sense 
and in a more or less experimental way in our everyday 
intercourse with our fellows. The works listed as refer- 
ences in this book, for the most part, have this kind of prac- 
tical value. In addition to them, works of realistic fiction 
will often be found helpful, provided their authors are 
not content to portray only the sordid side of life. Biog- 
raphy, also, is a fruitful field. 

OBSERVATION AND PERSONAL CONTACTS 

But books can never supply all that is necessary to the 
proper understanding of our fellows. Nothing can take 



THE CONTINUANCE OF ADULT GROWTH 183 

the place of thoughtful consideration of their actual life- 
performance. It is said that the great naturalist Agassiz 
after giving a student a specimen to study in the labora- 
tory would almost bring him to despair by relentlessly 
pushing the question : ' ' Well, what do you see now ? " In 
the end, however, the teacher achieved his purpose, and 
the student's despair was changed to high satisfaction in 
being able to see what was visible only to the keenly 
observant eye. The practice of observation, so much needed 
in the study of plants and animals, is even more neces- 
sary in our efforts to understand human nature. Here, 
too, we must have eyes that see; but our gaze will not be 
fixed upon microscopic details but will turn to the mean- 
ingful gesture, the characteristic response, the interfering 
habit, the impulsive act, the signs of evasive behavior or of 
deliberately chosen conduct — the accepted way of life. 
What we are trying to grasp is, ultimately, not a printed 
page but a being of spirit and flesh, a personality, for 
whom the printed word is but a symbol. 

Whenever our understanding of others springs from gen- 
uine fellowship with them or leads us to a further sharing 
of life with "all sorts and conditions of men," it opens 
the way for the continuation of adult growth. A long life- 
time is still too short a period in which to gain more than 
a little insight into the workings of the human mind, and 
adult personality will continue to be stimulated and en- 
riched by a variety of discerning contacts with our fellow- 
men. One who has spent his life in close and helpful re- 
lations to troubled humanity declares that he has found 
it "a great and absorbing pleasure to understand human 
nature better." 3 "Our whole attitude toward our fellow- 
man is dependent," Adler maintains, "upon our under- 

a Elwood Worcester, Body, Mind and Spirit, p. xvi. Charles Scrib- 
ner's Sons, publisher. 



184 THE UNDERSTANDING OP ADULT WAYS 

standing of him; an implicit necessity of understanding 
him, therefore, is a fundamental of the social relation- 
ship." 4 

Growth may take place through the gaining of knowl- 
edge and the improvement of performance in almost any 
realm of thought and conduct. The particular fields we 
have been discussing were suggested quite naturally by 
the subject matter of this book, but it will be apparent 
that growth does not depend simply upon the nature of 
the things studied or done. It results largely from the 
spirit and manner in which they are undertaken. A third 
avenue of adult growth, already involved in the other two 
but reaching beyond the field which they might open, is 
to be found, therefore, in deliberate and continuous effort 
to learn and to do new things. By our definition, this is 
the very essence of growth, and scarcely anything would 
be likely to contribute more to the vigor of adult per- 
sonality. The man whose manner of life includes the fre- 
quent undertaking of something new will be largely freed 
from the dominance of those pattern-making forces that 
threaten to reduce all of life to a machine-like routine. 
He will succeed in maintaining his personal freedom. 

DOING AND LEARNING NEW THINGS 

The "new things" that are done need not involve turn- 
ing one's attention to altogether unfamiliar fields; they 
may consist of improved methods and procedures in lines 
of endeavor we have followed through the years. They 
are "new" because they are different and better ways 
of doing what we have undertaken. They are new because 
they cannot be achieved merely by reliance upon habit 
but require the gaining of fresh knowledge or insight, the 

4 Alfred Adler, Understanding Human Nature, pp. 3-4, Greenberg 
Publisher, Inc., New York. 



THE CONTINUANCE OF ADULT GROWTH 185 

exercise of thinking, and the extension of the experimental 
attitude into many phases of our work. The homemaker 
may use a new recipe in baking a cake or devise more 
varied and nourishing menus for the family meals; the 
farmer may keep in touch with agricultural research and 
profit personally and perhaps also financially by applying 
what he learns; the businessman can rearrange his store 
or adopt improved methods, so as to serve his customers 
more efficiently; the teacher can revise his course plans and 
modify his teaching techniques and thus bring added vi- 
tality to his teaching; the minister, the church board mem- 
ber, the worker in the church school, the parent, and other 
adults without number, can repent of their easy surrender 
to routine and turn deliberately into some specific path of 
fresh and thoughtful endeavor. 

Although this new path need not take us into wholly 
unfamiliar fields, adventures in that direction are among 
its stimulating possibilities. The effective personality must 
have some particular and specialized interests which allow 
practical mastery of their activities. But assuming these, 
attractiveness and vitality in the person of any age will 
often be in proportion to the richness and variety of the 
interests he follows. Most adults who are at all eager to 
keep on growing would find it quite possible and very re- 
warding to venture into some hitherto untried fields, to 
cultivate new interests, and to learn new things : a new 
kind of friendship, a different type of Christian service, 
a venture into unexplored realms of reading or of aesthetic 
experience, a trip to unfamiliar places, an unconventional 
form of recreation, a plunge into some appealing but neg- 
lected subject of study, the open-minded consideration of 
ideas with which we disagree, the cultivation of a skill 
never previously learned. For the adult of faith and 
spirit who has kept up the practice of learning, there are 
many rewarding possibilities along these lines. 



186 THE UNDERSTANDING OF ADULT WAYS 

Despite the emphasis we have placed upon activity, it 
should be understood that growth is not likely to result 
from continuous, unbroken effort. It requires for its nor- 
mal progress that there shall be times when the bow is 
unflexed and the cord made slack. Thoreau wrote of his 
days of quiet solitude at Concord, ' ' I grew in those periods 
like corn in the night," and psychologists have often ob- 
served increased improvement in learning after periods 
of rest. A real opportunity for adult growth is offered 
by a life-program that provides for a proper alternation 
between effort and release. 

RECREATION, WORSHIP, AND GROWTH 

For men and women of high purpose, play periods are 
not a sign of indolence, nor are they a "waste of time." 
They make growth possible because they get rid of the 
poisons of tense living and encourage spiritual health. 
Physicians have often gladly acknowledged their reliance — 
beyond the use of drugs and surgery — upon the healing 
forces that are constantly at work in the human body. 
In a somewhat similar way, we can depend heavily upon 
the "healing forces" of personality, wherever the condi- 
tions of life permit them to function. And since a suit- 
able balance between work and play is one of the condi- 
tions under which these constructive forces become active 
and strong, it tends to keep personality healthy and thus 
to stimulate growth. 

Some kinds of worship, because they are essentially re- 
creative, also fulfil this function. They are the freer 
movements of the human spirit in which we rest back 
trustfully upon life 's underlying spiritual forces or lift our 
minds and hearts in spontaneous expressions of praise. 
The faiths that give life meaning may have been hard won, 
but when they have been gained, they open the way to 
resources for living which refresh and invigorate. Our 



THE CONTINUANCE OF ADULT GROWTH 187 

approach to God will sometimes be made for other pur- 
poses; but praise and surrender are important and true 
acts of worship which, by keeping life significant, restore 
spiritual energy. A balanced program of life will include 
periods in which we "wait upon the Lord" and gain 
strength. While we may seldom be enabled to "mount 
up with wings," we shall, if we live trustfully, learn an 
even greater thing — to "walk and not faint." The achieve- 
ment of this technique for living is an evidence of growth. 
One further possibility of adult growth we invite the 
reader to explore — a broad way, offering a variety of in- 
viting activities to those who journey over it and stretch- 
ing far beyond the limits of sight — the avenue of fuller 
dedication to the Christian enterprise. Most of the read- 
ers of this book will be adults who have identified them- 
selves with the Great Cause and have given themselves 
in some degree to it; but only a few, perhaps, will say 
that they could not make larger investments of their powers 
in the tasks which it involves. Yet men and women in 
every generation have found by means of such investments 
their best answer to the question: For what ends shall 
we live? And devotion to their Christian purpose has 
brought integration of personality and has given direction 
to growth. Advance along this way is a definite op- 
portunity of the mature years. 

USING OUR PRESENT OPPORTUNITIES 

For each individual, let it be understood, this avenue 
begins from the place he now occupies in the program of 
Christianity. It may be that under some circumstances, 
"they also serve who only stand and wait"; but most of 
us have tasks for which we are now responsible, and 
nothing can take the place of our giving to them the full 
measure of our devotion. The work we have to do may 
be small or great. Our place of Christian service for the 



188 THE UNDERSTANDING OF ADULT WAYS 

present may be in the home, in the neighborhood, in a 
particular phase of the work of the church, in some philan- 
thropic undertaking, in a definite part of the missionary 
enterprise, in one phase or another of social reconstruction. 
Wherever our station, the way to greater faithfulness be- 
gins at that point. We shall advance very little by waiting 
for larger and more significant opportunities, by dwelling 
upon what we might do under different circumstances, or 
by speculating about a more Christian order of society 
while we overlook our most obvious responsibilities in the 
social order we now have. 

Life is given true worth by the sense of having had a 
share in meeting human need, physical or spiritual; and 
that consciousness is gained by the loyal performance of 
such acts of service as are at present open to us. By using 
these opportunities it becomes possible for us to say to 
ourselves : "I helped a youth win a moral victory today. 
I shared a little in making known the Christian message. 
What I did today may alleviate the pain of some sufferer 
or lighten the lot of a man without hope. I do not have 
great powers but I lent my support in this bit of service 
to safeguarding the institutions of democracy. I had a 
part in healing an African native of the dread sleeping- 
sickness today. I helped, in Japan, to teach some future 
Kagawa the way of Christ." 

While the Christian will keep his attention on outcomes 
rather than upon his own feelings, there is nothing un- 
worthy in finding enjoyment in doing one's duty; nor 
are we any the less ethical because we recognize that all 
such service, done from high motives and in the spirit of 
brotherhood, glows with added significance in the light of 
Him who said : ' ' Inasmuch as ye did it unto one of these, 
my brethren, even these least, ye did it unto me." 5 Growth 

^American Standard Revision of the Holy Bible, Matt. 25 :40. Copy- 
right, International Council of Religious Education. Used by per- 
mission. 



THE CONTINUANCE OF ADULT GROWTH 189 

will come unheralded and often imperceptibly as we accept 
and try earnestly to fill our place of responsibility in exist- 
ing Christian enterprises. 

But as we render our service, something else, too, must 
be realistically faced; namely this: stagnation rather than 
growth will result from "doing tasks" unreflectively. If 
we would keep on growing, the things we do and the move- 
ments to which we lend our support must be frequently 
evaluated in the light of the Christian ideal and purpose. 
By such testing we shall often be led to share actively in 
the reconstruction of these tasks and in the creation of new 
enterprises, looking toward the building of a more Chris- 
tian world. 

EVALUATING OUR WORK 

This critical evaluation of our work or of the institutions 
for which we labor is one of the clearest marks of a grow- 
ing personality. It is something that may be done by the 
individual in his personal study and reflection or by the 
group in the kind of discussion that involves cooperative 
thinking. It may also enter into some forms of our wor- 
ship — public or private — for we shall often go forth from 
our worship to "do something different because of it. ' ' 

The thoughtful adult who attempts any such critical 
evaluation of his practices will at times be forced to con- 
sider some of the deepest issues of life. We are not all 
philosophers but unless we are merely impulsive, we all 
live by some philosophy, whether or not we are able clearly 
to formulate it. And to a greater or lesser degree, we are 
all influenced by modes of thought current in our world. 

In a world like ours in which millions of our fellows 
order their lives without any reference to God, in which 
powerful social movements brush God aside as a hindrance 
to progress, and in which influential writers deal with life 
as if its whole significance were confined within the sphere of 



190 THE UNDERSTANDING OF ADULT WAYS 

our human striving, it need not be surprising if the Chris- 
tian finds that his own thought and conduct have been 
influenced by these factors. It is possible for us to say 
words and to express ideas that are a part of our tradi- 
tional Christian thinking, while some of the deep springs 
of our lives flow from sources which have been "con- 
taminated" by the secularism of our age. In the areas 
affected by them, we think and act like those who leave God 
out. 

What shall the serious-minded adult do if he finds him- 
self in this difficulty? How may he make his reflections 
lead to spiritual growth ? What he must do is clearly this : 
he must probe deeper in his thinking, considering the im- 
plications of his Christian faith for life, and facing frankly 
the alternatives. Despite the conflicting philosophies of 
today, he may come to see that there are no better terms 
in which we can think of God than those of a Christ-like 
purpose at the heart of things; that there is no more ade- 
quate symbol for God than that of a loving Father. Other 
views, if followed through, leave us in despair or with a 
sense of deep insecurity, because they provide nothing to 
sustain our values or to support us as we seek yet higher 
values. The Christian idea of God enables us not to de- 
spair of life, while at the same time it will not allow us 
to be lightly optimistic about it. Rather, it bids us labor 
on in a spirit of "hopeful striving" made possible because 
our faith in ultimate victory rests in the character of God. 
We grow spiritually as this idea exercises ever more sway 
over our deepest thoughts and emotions. 6 

Such growth, however, is never attained by thinking 
alone. Ideas gain strength as they are allowed to influence 
what we do and as our experience confirms or modifies 
them. Only when the will of God is known to us, not 

6 See God, by Walter M. Horton. Associated Press, New York, 1937. 



THE CONTINUANCE OF ADULT GROWTH 191 

merely as something we have thought about but as a pur- 
pose we have followed or a deed we have done with soul- 
stirring satisfaction, does Christian conviction become 
strong. God will become more real to us and may become 
a controlling factor in all our experience as we live in vital 
fellowship with him — a fellowship which extends through 
prayer and communion to the world of action where we 
seek to do his will. 

BUILDING THE KINGDOM OP GOD 

How can the Christian adult find a satisfying life-adjust- 
ment in a world like ours, except as he gives himself to 
some of the tasks of social reconstruction? If he does not 
share in remaking his world, his world will mold him to 
its likeness. He and all of his fellows who are similarly 
negligent will be conformed to its demands; and whatever 
the resulting character may be, it will not be Christian. 

The adult who sees this clearly will find his true place 
in life and will at the same time advance in spiritual 
growth as he shares in the building of a more Christian 
civilization by the methods that most nearly accord with 
the spirit of Christ. While the followers of the Son of 
man are far from being agreed on all the ends to be sought 
or the means to be used, there is increasing agreement 
at some points; and the desire to find the Christian way 
is growing stronger and becoming more nearly universal 
among all those who pray: "Thy will be done in earth 
as it is in heaven." Multitudes believe that the only hope 
of saving the world from ultimate self-destruction is by 
the discovery and application of a Christian solution for 
the problems which so seriously trouble it today. 

In the meantime, the individual Christian must see that 
such light as he possesses is not put under a bushel. By 
insight into the life that "was the light of men," by in- 
telligent reflection upon life today, by open-minded shar- 



192 THE UNDERSTANDING OP ADULT WAYS 

ing in group discussion, by creative worship, and by de- 
liberate decisions made in the light of the best he knows, 
he will find his own course of Christian action and will help 
to build the Kingdom of God. 

The adult who pursues this course with vigor will not 
find life closing in upon him like "shades of the prison 
house." As long as the faculties remain active and the 
physical powers are not too greatly diminished, he will 
have "so many things to do" that life will ever open up 
before him with the significance of a continuing adventure. 
And when his earthly career ends, he will still be looking 
for "the city which hath the foundations" and he will 
know that "this is the victory that hath overcome the 
world, even our faith." 7 

SOURCE MATERIAL 

1. Finding ourselves. — Harry W. Hepner gives a check list of 
unique abilities for adults. Some distinctive qualities are possessed 
by every person, and though not necessarily spectacular they may 
be of real value. Included in Hepner 's list are such abilities as 

these: SOCIAL: Say a pleasant "Good morning" Make a 

good first impression Help people in trouble Be the life 

of the party Accept criticism in good spirit Persuade oth- 
ers Make many friends Tell stories well AUTISTIC: 

Wear clothes well Set an attractive table Decorate home 

in good taste Musical aptitudes MENTAL: Solve 

puzzles Versed in current events School subjects were 

easy MECHANICAL AND CEEATIVE : Drive a car safely 

Make gadgets Write Cook new foods Develop chil- 
dren PHYSICAL: Bodily health Take part in sports 

HOBBIES: Train animals Photography Collect ''Your 

unique ability may appear to be trivial, but it may be capitalized 
even though it be merely unusual finger dexterity. Many a machine 
operator and shorthand writer has longed to have it." (Harry W. 
Hepner, Finding Yourself in Your Work, pp. 89, 91. D. Appleton- 
Century Co., New York.) 

2. Some possibilities of adult growth. — Among the possibilities of 
adult growth suggested by our chapter discussions, we may list the 
following (check items which represent your needs) : (a) more 



''American Standard Revision of the Holy Bible, 1 John 5 :4. Copy- 
right, Diternational Council of Religious Education. Used by permis- 
sion. 



THE CONTINUANCE OF ADULT GROWTH 193 

wholesome reaction to change; (o) more concern for Christian social 
order; (o) improved control of emotion; (d) better adjustment to 
problems of early adulthood; (e) constructive handling of limitations 
of middle age; (/) better understanding of factors making people 
what they are; (g) appreciation of religious differences; (h) ability 
to see the unique traits of others; (i) better understanding of own 
personality; (j) finding wholesome ways of self-realization; (1c) in- 
creased ability to get along with people; (Z) more harmonious rela- 
tion to God; (m) improved mental health; (n) grasp of possibilities 
of adult learning; (o) increased skill in doing new things; (p) a 
more Christian philosophy of work; (q) greater usefulness in church 
activities; (r) fuller investment of powers in community service; 
(s) better forms of recreation and enrichment; (t) finer experience 
of parenthood and family life; («) ability to share in cooperative 
thinking; (v) definite plan for personal development; (w) firmer 
conviction of Christian idea of God; (re) more vital prayer experi- 
ence; (y) fuller dedication to the Christian cause. 

3. The goal of reconstruction. — ' ' The goal we seek is a truly 
Christian order of human life which will place personality above 
tradition, property and nationalism. This means that the church 
itself must subordinate custom, rite and institution to the common 
needs of men in conformity to the principle which Jesus so vividly 
expressed when he declared that ' the Sabbath was made for man, not 
man for the Sabbath. ' It means reconstruction of our economic 
order to purge it of factors that are unchristian, unethical and anti- 
social, in accord with Jesus' word, 'How much is a man of more 
value than a sheep.' It means a world order which substitutes law 
for the anarchy of war and in which nations, races and classes as 
well as individuals are subject to the ultimate sovereignty of right." 
(A ' ' Statement of Christian Convictions, ' ' Report of the Lake Geneva 
Conference, p. 27. United Christian Adult Movement, 1936. Copy- 
right, International Council of Eeligious Education. Used by per- 
mission.) 

QUESTIONS FOR THE READER 

1. Did you check your own needs in the list given in Source 
Material No. 2 before reading this chapter? Having read the chap- 
ter, select three or four of the items (or others which they may have 
suggested) that especially fit your case and lay plans to advance 
along these lines. 

2. How may self-knowledge help us toward a fuller life? Under 
what circumstances may the study of one's self be detrimental? 

3. Consider Source Material No. 1 and No. 2. How may these be 
used in improving self -management? In seeking to understand oth- 
ers? 

4. Why is the learning and doing of new things a fundamental 
factor in personal growth? 



194 THE UNDERSTANDING OF ADULT WAYS 

5. Do you agree that the path to greater usefulness in Christian 
service begins with our present responsibilities? Why do the more 
remote fields of service sometimes seem the more alluring? 

6. What is meant by the statement that "stagnation rather than 
growth may result from doing tasks unreflectively ' ' ? Give examples. 

7. Why may worship, in some of its forms, be said to be of the 
nature of recreation? What kind of worship will cause us to go 
forth to do "something different because of it"? 

8. What do you think of the statement that the Christian will 
seek the building of a more Christian civilization "by the methods 
that most nearly accord with the spirit of Christ"? (Why not 
say, "according to the blueprints furnished by Christ"?) What are 
some of these methods? 

9. What are some of the evidences that there is increasing agree- 
ment among Christians as to the need of Christianizing the social 
order? 

QUESTIONS FOE GROUP DISCUSSION 

1. For use in discussion, Questions 2, 4, 7, 8, and 9 are probably 
the most suitable. 

2. Which do you think is the greater need of the church: (a) 
more general acceptance of responsibility for present tasks, or (6) 
more critical evaluation of these tasks, seeking their reconstruction 
toward the Christian ideal? Why? 

EEPOETS AND INVESTIGATIONS 

1. Eeport on adult ideas of God. Ask a number of adults for 
their views of God's relation to the world and of how faith in God 
affects all areas of life. 

2. Eeport on "Opportunities in my church or community for 
sharing in the tasks of Christian reconstruction." 



BIBLIOGRAPHY 

Below are listed some references for further study of the problems 
discussed in the chapters of the text. 

I 

Barclay, W. C, Christian Education for Times Like These (pam- 
phlet). Cokesbury, 1936. 

International Council of Eeligious Education, Admits in Action, 1938; 
Christian Education Today, 1940 (bulletins). 

Kilpatrick, W. H., Education for a Changing Civilization. Macmillan, 
1926. 

Meland, B. E., The Church and Adult Education. American Associa- 
tion of Adult Education. 

Sherrill, L. J., and Purcell, J. E., Adult Education in the Church, 
Chapter I. Presbyterian Committee of Publication, Eichmond, 
1936. 

Wicks, B. B., The Eeason for Living, Chapters XIII, XIV. Scrib- 
ner '8,1934. 

Zeigler, E. F., The Way of Adult Education, Chapters I, II. The 
Westminster Press, 1938. 

II 

Charters, Jessie B., Young Adults and the Church, Chapter I. Abing- 
don Press, 1936. 

Hollingworth, H. L., Mental Growth and Decline, Chapter XIII. 
D. Appleton Co., 1927. 

International Council of Eeligious Education, Young Adults in the 
Church, 1939 (bulletin) ; From Youth to Adulthood in the 
Church (leaflet). 

Kotinsky, Buth, Adult Education and the Social Scene, Chapter I. 
D. Appleton-Century Co., 1933. 

Myerson, A., The Foundations of Personality. Little, Brown & Co. 

Pitkin, Walter B., Life Begins at Forty. McGraw-Hill Co., 1932. 

Zeigler, E. F., Toward Understanding Adults, Chapter n. The West- 
minster Press, 1934. 

in 

Jung, Carl, Psychological Types. Harcourt, Brace Co., 1923. 

Menninger, Karl, The Human Mind, Chapter I. A. A. Knopf, 1930. 

Myerson, A., The Foundations of Personality. Little, Brown & Co. 

Stolz, K. B., Pastoral Psychology, Chapter V. Cokesbury, 1932 (re- 
vised 1941). 

Powell, W. E., The Growth of Christian Personality, Chapter IV. 
Bethany, 1929. 

Pratt, J. B., The Eeligious Consciousness, Chapter I. Macmillan, 
1921. 

195 



196 THE UNDERSTANDING OF ADULT WAYS 

IV 
Burnham, W. H., The Normal Mind. D. Appleton Co., 1924. 
Coe, George A., The Motives of Men. Chas. Scribner 's Sons, 1928. 
Groves, E. E., Understanding Yourself, Chapters VIII and IX. 

Greenberg, 1935. 
Hepner, H. W., Finding Yourself m Your Work. D. Appleton- 

Century Co., 1937. 
Link, H. C, The Rediscovery of Man, Chapters I, IV. Maemillan, 

1938. 

V 

Charters, Jessie B., Young Adults and the Church, Chapters III, 

IV, Vni. Abingdon, 1936. 
Coe, George A., The Motives of Men. Scribner 's, 1928. 
International Council of Beligious Education, Learning for Life, 

1940; Interest Finder for Adult Groups in the Church. 
Sherrill, L. J., and Purcell, J. E., Adult Education in the Church, 

Chapter II. 
Weatherhead, L. D., Psychology and Life, Chapters VI and VII. 

Abingdon, 1935. 
Woodworth, It. S., Dynamic Psychology. Columbia University Press, 

1918. 

VI 
Gray, A. Herbert, About People. Scribner 's, 1934. 
Burkhart, B. A., Guiding Individual Growth, Chapter II. Abingdon, 

1935. 
Holman, C. T., The Religion of a Healthy Mind, Chapters I-VILT. 

Bound Table Press, 1939. 
Oliver, J. B., Psychiatry and Mental Health. Scribner 's, 1933. 

(Treats of the more severe maladjustments and mental ill- 
nesses.) 
Overstreet, H. A., About Ourselves, Part I. Norton, 1927. 
Weatherhead, L. D., Psychology and Life, Chapters XI and XII. 

Abingdon, 1935. 

VII 

Gilkey, J. G., Managing One's Self. Maemillan, 1933. 

Hart, Hornell, Living Religion. Abingdon, 1937. 

Holman, C. T., The Religion of a Healthy Mind, Chapters IX-XVL 

Bound Table, 1939. 
International Council of Beligious Education, Personal Religious 

Living, 1939 (bulletin). 
Jung, Carl, Modern Man in Search of a Soul. Harcourt, Brace Co., 

1933. 
Morgan, J. B., Keeping a Sound Mind. Maemillan, 1934. 



BIBLIOGRAPHY 197 

vni 

Elliott, H. S., The Process of Group Thinking. Association Press, 

1928. 
Gilkey, J. G., Yo<w Can Master Life, Chapter X. Macmillan, 1935. 
International Council of Religious Education, Group Work With 

Adults Through the Church, 1938; Adult Projects in Study 

and Action, 1940 (bulletins). 
Sherrill, L. J. and Purcell, J. E., Adult Education in the Church, 

Chapters III, V. 
Thorndike, E. L., Adult Learning. Macmillan, 1928. 
Zeigler, E. F., The Way of Adult Education, especially Chapter II. 

Westminster, 1938. 

IX 

Cabot, E. C, What Men Live By. Houghton Mifflin, 1914. 

Hayward, P. E. and M. H., The Koine and Christian Living. West- 
minster, 1931. 

Hepner, H. W., Finding Yourself in Your Work. D. Appleton- 
Century, 1937. 

International Council of Religious Education, Some and Church 
Work Together, 1940; Christian Family Life Education, 1940 
(bulletins). 

Knapp, F. L., Leadership Education in the Church, Chapter II. 
Abingdon, 1935. 

Overstreet, H. A., A Guide to Civilised Loafing. Norton, 1934. 

Riggs, A. F., Recreation in a Balanced Life. Doubleday, Doran, 1935. 

Sherrill, L. J., The Opening Doors of Childhood. Macmillan, 1939. 



Adler, A., Understanding Human Nature. Greenberg, 1927. 

Coe, George A., What Is Christian Education? Chapters V, VI. 

Scribner's, 1929. 
Harkness, Georgia, Eeligious Living. Association Press, 1937. 

(Hazen Books on Religion.) 
Horton, W. M., God. Association Press, 1937. (Hazen Books on 

Religion.) 
International Council of Eeligious Education, Growth in Christian 

Service, 1937 (pamphlet) ; Adults in Action, 1938; Adult Pro- 
gram Guide, 1940 (bulletins). 
Knapp, F. L., Leadership Education in the Church, Chapter IV. 

Abingdon, 1935. 
Tittle, E. F., Christians in an Unchristian Society. Association Press, 

1940. (Hazen Books on Religion.) 

GENERAL REFERENCES 

The subject matter of this book touches upon too many fields to 
permit the printing of a full bibliography. Those who desire addi- 



198 THE UNDERSTANDING OF ADULT WAYS 

tional references, including works of a more technical nature than 
those given above, will find valuable lists in some of the books named. 

A general bibliography on the mental hygiene of personality is 
given by E. R. Groves in Understanding Yourself. The Human Mind, 
by Karl Menninger, gives a lengthy list of titles in the field of 
mental disorders and general psychiatry. J. R. Oliver in Psychiatry 
and Mental Health and K. R. Stoltz in Pastoral Psychology give 
valuable lists of works dealing with problems of pastoral psychiatry. 

The literature on pastoral counseling and on the relation of re- 
ligion to mental health is increasing rapidly. The titles of a few re- 
cent publications in this field are given below. 

Boisen, A. T., The Exploration of the Inner World. Willett, Clark & 

Co., 1936. 
Bonnell, J. S., Pastoral Psychiatry. Harper, 1938. 
May, Rollo, The Art of Counseling. Cokesbury, 1939. 
May, Rollo, Springs of Creative Living. Abingdon-Cokesbury, 1940. 
Seabury, David, How Jesus Heals Our Minds Today. Little, Brown 

Co., 1940. 
McKenzie, J. G., Psychology, Psychotherapy, and Evangelicalism. 

Macmillan, 1941. 



INDEX 



Activity, desire for, 86. 

Adjustment, life-, 105-08. 

Adler, Alfred, 88, 183-84. 

Adolescence, 74. 

Adulthood, stages in, 39-44; 
transition to, 31-38, 45. 

Adult personality, 68; patterns 
of, 76-81. 

Adults, differences in, 49-64; 
emotional control of, 34, 131; 
intelligence of, 32; interests 
of, 90-95; learning ability 
of, 33, 143-59; maladjust- 
ments of, 108-21; mental 
health, of, 125-40; motives 
of, 85-101. 

Ambivert, 59. 

Average man, 55. 

Avoidance, methods of, lllf. 

Awareness of God, 53, 98, 107, 
120, 140, 148, 175, 186. 



Bailey, Albert, 22. 
Baillie, John, 53. 
Barclay, W. C, 27. 
"Barrier-adjustment-urge," 77. 
Basic human drives, 86-90, 95, 

100, 104. 
Behavior patterns, 76-81. 
Bogardus, E. S., 78. 
Boisen, A. T., 120. 
Borderline cases, 117. 
Briggs, E. S., 94. 
Burt, Cyril, 60. 



Cabot, Eichard C, 175. 
Carnegie, Dale, 98. 
Cartwright, Lin D., 101. 



Challenge to adults, 25. 
Changing group attitudes, 154- 

56. 
Changing individual habits, 152- 

54. 
Chappell, M. M., 128-29. 
Charters, Jessie B., 38, 46, 92. 
Christian life, 81, 137, 151, 187- 

92; in relation to health, 

137-39. 
Christian social order, 19, 191-92, 

193. 
Church, adults in the, 14, 37, 54, 

62, 69, 81, 91-94, 98, 154-57, 
163-65, 187-91. 

Church work, values in, 163-64. 
Coe, George A., 79, 80, 82, 97. 
Communism, 99. 
Compensations, wholesome, 135. 
Conflict, psychological, 108; ef- 
forts to avoid, lllf. 
Conversion experience, 52-53, 54, 

63, 144. 

D 

Dangerous age, 41. 

Dedication of self, 98-100, 187. 

Delusions of persecution, 116. 

Dementia praecox, 120. 

"Desire to belong," 98. 

Desires. See Drives, basic 
human. 

Dewey, John, 95. 

Differences in adults, kinds of, 
51-52; in religious experi- 
ence, 52-55, 63; in interests, 
90-93, 167-68. 

Direct attack upon problems, 76, 
110-11, 125-26, 128-29. 

Discrimination, a function of 
persons, 80. 

Disillusionment, 24, 40. 



199 



200 



INDEX 



Doing new things, 184-85. 
Dodge and Kahn, 64, 98. 
Drives, basic human, 86-90, 95, 
100, 104. 

E 

Early adulthood, 39-41. 
Early social adjustments, 73. 
Economic order, educator, 82. 
Economic responsibility, 35-36. 
Education, adult control of, 14, 

19. 
Emotional control, 34, 131. 
Emotional religion, 55. 
Environment, interaction with, 

72-73. 
Evaluating our Christian service, 

189. 
Evangelism, motives in, 101. 
Evasiveness, 70, 76, lllf, 125, 

147. 
Exaggerated behavior, 114-15. 
Extrovert, 59. 

F 

Factors in adult personality, 

71-82. 
Failure, reactions to, 70, 75. 
Family life, values in, 170-71; 

foes of, 172-73. 
Fears, management of, 131, 139. 
Fellowship, desire for, 89. 
Followers, necessity of, 164. 
Freedom, maintaining, 82. 
Freud, Sigmund, 111. 
Friendship, specific acts involved 

in, 152. 

G 

Gilkey, J. G., 140, 158, 180. 

Germ cells, 71. 

Getting along with others, 106, 

135-37. 
Glover, T. E., 157. 



God, adjustment to, 107; idea 

of, 190. See also Awareness 

of God. 
Gordon, E. G., 176. 
Gray, A. Herbert, 62. 
Group thinking, 155-56, 158. 
Groves, E. E., 46, 172. 
Growth, avenues of adult, 180- 

92; definition of, 179, 184; 

list of possibilities of, 192. 

H 

Habit systems, 79, 147. 
Habitual response to difficulty, 

76. 
Hadley, A. T., 20. 
Hallucinations, 116. 
Handicaps, management of, 133- 

35. 
Happiness in life, 104, 107. 
Hart, Bernard, 110. 
Hart, J. K., 14, 26, 35, 45. 
Heicher, M. K. W., 170. 
Hepner, H. W., 77, 192. 
Heredity, 71. 
Hidden motives, 96. 
Hoffman, I. D., 22. 
Hollingworth, H. L., 35, 44, 128. 
Horton, W. M., 190. 
Hysterical condition, 117. 



Idea of God, Christian, 190. 

Identification, 114. 

Individual differences. See Dif- 
ferences in adults. 

Inherited constitution, 71-72, 86- 
90. 

Institutionalization of the adult, 
44. 

Intelligence, development of, 32. 

Interaction with environment, 
72-73. 

Interests, development of, 90; 
changes in, 93-94; relation 
to motives, 94. 

Interfering habits, 146-47, 153. 



INDEX 



201 



International Council of Reli- 
gious Education, 37, 53, 63, 
102, 158, 193. 

Introvert, 58. 



James, William, 33, 101. 

Jennings, H. S., 71. 

Jesus Christ, devotion to, 52, 81, 

100, 137-39, 187f. 
Job, characteristics of a good, 

175. 
Jung, Carl, 138. 

K 

Knapp, Forrest L., 101. 
Kotinsky, E., 36. 



Later adulthood, 43-44. 
Leadership growth, motives in, 

101. 
Learning, adult, evidences of, 33, 

143-45; difficulties in, 145- 

48; conditions of effective, 

148-51; methods of, 151-57, 

158. 
Life-changes in adulthood, 144. 
Limitations of middle age, 41-42, 

46. 
Link, H. C, 19, 108, 153, 163. 
Love, parental and possessive, 

170, 173, 176. 

M 

Maladjustment, serious, 116-21. 
Manic-depressive psychosis, 120, 

129. 
Maturity, meaning of, 45. 
Melancholia, 120, 129. 
Menninger, K., 58, 63, 105, 106, 

108, 132. 
Mental disease, 118-21. 
Mental health, questions for 

evaluating, 126. 



Mental maturity, 32-35. 

Middle age, 41-43. 

Moods, mastery of, 132-33. 

Moody, D. L., 180. 

Moody persons, 57, 63. 

Morgan, J. B., 127. 

Motivation of learning, 149-50. 

Motives, nature of, 85-86; rela- 
tion to basic drives, 95 ; un- 
conscious, 96; higher, 97- 
100; in church work, 101. 

Murphy and Jensen, 82. 

Myerson, A., 51, 89, 97. 

N 

Neurasthenia, 118. 

Neurosis, prevalence of, 108. 

Normal distribution curve, 50. 

O 

Observation, practice of, 183. 
Occupational attitudes, 78. 
Oliver, J. R., 35, 44, 88, 121, 129, 

139, 174. 
Opportunities, recurrent, 158. 
Over-compensation, 115. 
Over street, H. A., 176. 



Palmer, P. L., 92. 

Paranoia, 120. 

Parental love, 170, 173, 176. 

Pattern of personality, 66, 68, 

76-80, 81. 
Perkins, Ruth, 179. 
Personal history, 73. 
Personality, 23, 56, 61, 66, 67f, 

81, 97, 104. 
Persons, affected by conditions, 

23-25, 27. 
Physical basis of life, 71. 
Pitkin, W., 42, 143, 161. 
Play, values in, 165-70, 175-76, 

186. 
Power, desire for, 88. 
Practical religion, 55. 



202 



INDEX 



Pratt, J. B., 55. 

Prince, Morton, 60. 

Projection, 113, 116. 

Propaganda, 155. 

Purpose, a commanding, 80, 99. 

E 

Eational religion, 55. 
Eationalization, 112. 
Eeactions to change, 20-21. 
Eecognition, desire for, 100. 
Eeconstructed drives, 95. 
Eecreation, adult, 165f. 
Eegression, 115. 
Eeligion and mental health, 137- 

40. 
Eeligious experience, 51-55, 63, 

81, 99, 107, 120, 137-39, 144, 

157, 175, 186f. 
Eeligious thought, changes in, 

18. 
Eepression, 119. 
Eespect for personality, 136. 
Eesponse to difficulty, 76. 
Eoutine, 44, 77f. 

S 

Sadler, W. S., 138. 

Schizophrenia, 120. 

Schou, H. I., 117. 

Scientific thinking, 18. 

Seabury, David, 97, 108. 

Security, desire for, 87. 

Segregation, 112. 

Self-activity, importance of, 80. 

Self -dedication, 98-100. 

Self -management, improvement 

of, 180. 
Self-realization, 97. 
Sensitiveness to praise or blame, 

51, 69, 70, 89. 
Sex desire, 51, 87, 95, 111. 
Sex differences, 60-61. 
Sheldon, W. H., 34. 
Social change, 16-19. 



Stockard, C. E., 57. 
Strecker and Appel, 115. 
Superiority, desire for, 88. 
Supreme Value, 175. 

T 

Thorndike, E. L., 32, 33, 143, 

144f. 
Tracy, Frederick, 35. 
Traditional religion, 54. 
Transition to adulthood, 31-38, 

45. 
Types of personality, 56-59, 63. 

U 

Unadjusted person, 108. 

Un-Christian world, 21, 23, 26, 
191. 

Unconscious motivation, 96, 119. 

Understanding our fellows, 181. 

Understanding ourselves, 180. 

Unique abilities, discovery of, 
192. 

Uniqueness of personalities, 61, 
64, 67. 

United Christian Adult Move- 
ment, 27, 158, 193. 

Unmarried adults, difficulties of, 
173-74. 

Unsocial persons, 57, 63. 

W 

Weatherhead, L. D., 99, 115, 121, 

140. 

Wicks, E. E., 82. 

Williams, Whiting, 175. 

Woodworth, E. S., 100. 

Worcester, Elwood, 183. 

Work, values in, 161-65. 

Worry, the habit of, 128-29. 

Worship, recreative, 186-87; re- 
constructive, 189. 



Young adults, 37-41, 45-46, 92. 



LIBRARY OF 

E. B. QUICK.